This piece excerpts a book that echoes something I tell myself for solace:
Even on their own terms the politics and business of the world were absurdly evanescent. One week politicians, people who worked in the City, and people whose job it was to report their doings would all be kept out of their beds by a financial crisis which, six months later, would be little talked of. By that time perhaps there would be . . . a corruption scandal in local government, which would then be followed by a flurry of public concern over crimes of violence, which in its turn would be pushed out of people’s minds by their fury over some proposed new tax; and so it would go on. Each of these things would seem important for a time, then each would pass away and scarcely matter again except to historians. In fact, the truth is that most of them made little or no difference even to the daily lives of most of the population living through them. People immersed in this stream of ever-changing events were filling their minds with . . . ephemera and trivia, what people in electronics mean by “noise.” (254)
It is not as if were no alternatives. Time spent listening to great music, or seeing great plays, or thinking about issues of lasting importance, was not in this category. In those cases the object of one’s activities retained its interest and importance for the rest of one’s life. If I spent an evening listening to Mahler’s Third Symphony, that symphony was still going to matter to me in six months’ time, or ten years, or thirty: it was part of my life, for always. In fact such things more often than not increased in interest and value with the passage of time. If I spent two or three months saturating myself in, let us say, recordings of Mozart’s piano concertos, and then did not return to them like that for another four years or so, I would find when I came back to them that I engaged with them on a deeper level than before. And the same was true of most great art. . . .
There were times when I felt, after all, that I was living to the full in face of death. Many men of action who are also writers have described the bliss induced in them by the sound of bullets smacking past their ears, and said that it intensified their awareness of being alive to an intoxicating level. The things that came closest to doing this for me when I fully realized I was facing death were my love affairs and friendships, philosophy and the arts.
I’m pretty steeped in politics these days from the sidelines, and I get pretty agitated when I muse on the direction of the country and the inevitable and possibly in-our-lifetimes collapse of the Republic.
But spring is coming. The days are warmer, and when I spend time outside plotting and planting, I can hear the neighbors’ horses nickering, the cattle lowing, and the occasional punctuation of an ass. My children smile, I can wrap my arms around my wife (after washing up), and I can spend the evenings with a book and a glass of wine.
Throughout the sweep of history, people have lived their lives. History books tell of the ascents, descents, and failures of nation-states or city-states, but that narrative is only clear to the individual when read in a history book. One person’s influence, unless one becomes a ruler, is minimal. One should participate, but remember what is important to the individual person and to enjoy the joys of life more than one suffers from the disappointments and heartbreak of trying to turn the march of history.
(Link seen on Instapundit.)