Pygmies

Surely they will say that giants built these massive
projects, these endless miles of paved roads, these
elegant dams across every river and stream big
enough to call by name, these aqueducts and tall
buildings that soar into the sky of steel and concrete
when they come across our ruins in centuries to
come.  These future Angles, Saxons, and Jutes will
write moving and gloomy odes, no doubt, to the
giants that once were here, and lament that they
are gone, having left their works behind.  But we
will know the truth, that sad truth that we were
pygmies and not giants at all.  For what matter is
it if one can build soaring towers into the sky if
one is tiny and malformed and immoral and
corrupt inside?

***

When I was an undergraduate student minoring in history, I took a course in British and Irish history to 1200CE (or AD, as I prefer to call it).  In that course I happened to become familiar with the melancholy nature of Anglo-Saxon poetry [1], and included in that body of work was an early poem (“The Ruin”) that speculated that the roman ruins of Bath were the work of departed giants.  I was listening to an audiobook about the geography of genius and pondering the way that past greatness tends to lead those who follow one’s inevitable fall with a heavy burden felt by those who come along afterward.  Being a somewhat melancholy person myself, I find it fairly easy to imagine that centuries in the future our own great civilization may be in a state similar to that of Roman civilization in early Middle Ages England.  Will there be people who will look at what is left behind of our civilization with a sense of wonder that such things were done when they will not see it as possible given their own modest achievements and capabilities?  It may very well be so.

There is, of course, a sort of fallacy that those who do great things must be great people.  Human beings, whether viewed at from the individual perspective or in terms of the groups in which we are a part, are very complicated beings full of unequal mixtures of good and evil.  We can err by discounting the worth of what someone does because they are not themselves good people.  We can argue that the things which good people make must be good.  We can say that people are good because they create good things, and so on and so forth.  The goodness of people and the utility of their works are, unfortunately, not the same.  A person can be intensely creative but also a terrible person in their personal life.  Someone can create a company that has tasty food or worthwhile technology while being reprehensible, and plenty of good and decent people may have unspectacular creations, while some good people are very creative, and some people who are wicked in their personal lives have done nothing worthwhile for the world.

In the future, it is easy to see that people may confuse the greatness of our creations with our own greatness as a people.  It is without a question that our age is not an age of moral greatness.  Those who proclaim themselves to be social justice warriors are often the worst sort of people when it comes to the godly morality by which societies thrive and are blessed.  As a society, we are increasingly unwilling to accept moral rebuke and all too quick to shame people into oblivion.  Anytime a society loses its mojo and falls from greatness, though, one can look to the moral pygmies within those societies.  What is truly most essential about people or a people is what is inside, and the lack of moral fiber and strong character will prevent a society from holding on to the greatness it once had.  There is no doubt that our nation has done great things, but equally no doubt that the days of our greatness are numbered, whether we fall by the assassin’s blade, are consumed by divine judgment, or fall on our own swords.  Anything is possible, unless we repent, and the time that is available appears to be drawing short.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/02/25/audiobook-review-great-courses-classics-of-british-literature-part-1/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/03/08/book-review-anglo-saxon-and-norse-poems/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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