life? or life in relief?

Do you live for, or lead life towards, the high points–the important occasions, the calendar events?  Or is life the series of perhaps-unremarkable or not-particularly-memorable events that span the gaps between those special occasions?

Christopher Dawson wrote of Gibbon, the author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, “He stood on the summit of the Renaissance achievement and looked back over the waste of history to ancient Rome, as from one mountain top to another.”  In such a perspective, more than a thousand years of Common Era human existence is intentionally overlooked as … time-marking?  A backslide?  Certainly inconsequential–reduced to three words.

To continue quoting historians, I believe it was Jared Diamond who wrte that human life during that span of time was “nasty, brutish and short.”  Dawson was highlighting the perceived pinnacles of Western civilization.  History books, and scrapbooks, aren’t filled with the day-to-day.

I’ve never been able to finish THOTDAFOTRE, but I’ve always remembered those three words, “waste of history”.  Pinch them down from thirteen hundred years to thirty or fifty or seventy, and:  do you define your life by milestones–weddings, births, deaths, awards, graduations–or by the space between?

I’m just asking the same question over and over.  I don’t intend to answer it, for myself or anyone else, so I’ll just append a few more quotations.  This inquiry bears a lot more thought.  Time is many directions, and many planes, and it is arbitrary.  And it may be our word for a collection of concepts that we do not yet grasp.  Time is slippery, and inevitable.

“It wasn’t really wasted time.”  — The Eagles, “Wasted Time” (I know, I know.)

“Each moment is a chunk of ore from which the precious metal must be wrought.” — Baudelaire (I think, but that’s from memory and I don’t know the name of the translator)

“Time creeps at so burdensome a pace.” — also, weirdly, Baudelaire, co-opted by Midnight Sun

” … and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” – John Donne

 

 

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