From Our Oriental Heritage, page 794:
The relaxation of family discipline in America has been made possible only by the economic unimportance of the urban home, and the appropriation of family functions by the school, the factory and the state.
Weird to see a writer on the left point this out. Sometime between then and now, the left has ramped up that breakdown to better atomize individuals and make them beholden to the state and its funded entities.
From Our Oriental Heritage, page 736:
In textiles and metalworking the craftsmen of China, during and after the Sung era, reached a degree of perfection never surpassed; in the cutting of jade and hard stones they went beyond all rivals anywhere; and in the carving of wood and ivory they were excelled only by their pupils in Japan. Furniture was designed in a variety of unique and uncomfortable forms; cabinet-makers, living on one bowl of rice per day, sent forth one objet de vertu–one little piece of perfection–after another; and these minor products of a careful art, taking the place of expensive furniture and luxuries in homes, gave to their owners a pleasure which in the Occident only connoisseurs can know.
An interesting perspective, that the best craftsman should only earn a bowl of rice a day. Sometimes, the old Socialist left gets a little dewy-eyed in its idealization of poverty and how men react to it.
One also wonders if much has changed in modern China.
From Our Oriental Heritage page 642:
We must not, through blur of distance, exaggerate the homogeneity of this culture, or of the Chinese people. Some elements of their early art and industry appear to have come from Mesopotamia and Turkestan; for example, the neolithic pottery of Honan is almost identical with that of Anau and Susa. The present “Mongolian” type is a highly complex mixture in which the primitive stock has been crossed and recrossed by a hundred invading or immigrating stocks from Mongolia, Russia (the Scythians?), and central Asia. China, like India, is to be compared with Europe as a whole rather than with any one nation of Europe; it is not the united home of one people, but a mdeley of human varieties different in origin, distinct in language, diverse in character and art, and often hostile to one another in customs, morals and government.
More modern Chinese histories that I read do not, erm, highlight this.
Of course, taken from that perspective, one wonders how much of the coming century’s history will deal with nations that are groups of differing tribes that might devolve. The Soviet Union being the earliest example, but this might include China, the United States, and the European Union. Perhaps we’re not looking at a world war, but rather a series of civil wars as nations break apart.
Our Oriental Heritage, page 525:
The East, resentful of subjection and poverty, may go in for science and industry at the very time when the children of the West, sick of machines that impoverish them and of sciences that disillusion them, may destroy their cities and their machines in chaotic revolution or war, go back, beaten, weary and starving, to the soil, and forge for themselves another mystical faith to give them courage in the face of hunger, cruelty, injustice and death. There is no humorist like history.
A view from 90 years ago. I will leave it to you, gentle reader, to wonder where we are relative to the possibility it raised.
Our Oriental Heritage, page 524, contrasting Hinduism with its offshoot Buddhism:
Despite its elements of nobility, Buddhism, like Stoicism, was a slave philosophy, even if voiced by a prince; it meant that all desire or struggle, even for personal or national freedom, should be abandoned, and that the ideal was desireless passivity; obviously the exhausting heat of India spoke in the rationalization of fatigue.
The Durant has an interesting perspective on Buddhism, that it is a nihilist reaction to historic events and Hinduism. You certainly do not get that perspective from books on mindfulness or the works of Thich Nhat Hanh. But they come from further down in Buddhism’s own history and not its source.
From Our Oriental Heritage page 522:
Doubtless when India was wealthy, sceptics were numerous, for humanity doubts its gods most when it prospers, and worships them most when it is miserable.
Ah, but after listening to the Gods of the Market-Place, men will hear again from the Gods of Copybook Headings:
As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market-Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall.
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
A perspective understood in the 1930s and before, but lost for the most part amongst the “elites” now.
From Our Oriental Heritage, page 450, on the end of the line of Ashoka:
States are built not on the ideals but on the nature of men.
I highlighted this because the Durant espouses Socialist ideas throughout, but here the Durant explains why socialism and communism and other authoritarian systems fail.
But in a couple of pages, no doubt, the Durant will again lament how an enlightened leader redistributed land/wealth but how his minister, progeny, or an amalgamation became corrupt and the idyll collapsed.
Also, a couple of From the Durant posts ago I said old school pulp writers mined history for story ideas. Apparently, modern pop culture makers mine history for names alone.
Our Oriental Heritage, a footnote on page 407:
Perhaps poetry will recover its ancient hold upon our people when it is again recited rather than silently read.
I have often said this myself. Sixty years and more after the Durants said it first.
Our Oriental Heritage, page 396.
Despite the continuity of the remains of Sind and Mysore, we feel that between the heyday of Mohenjo-daro and the advent of the Aryans a great gap stands in our knowledge, or rather that our knowledge of the past is an occasional gap in our ignorance. Among the Indus relics is a peculiar seal, compsoed of two serpent heads, which was the characteristic symobol of the oldest historical people of India–those serpent-worshiping Nagas whom the invading Aryans found in possession of the northern provinces, and whose descendants still linger in the remoter hills.
Where have I seen that symbol before? Oh, yeah, Conan the Barbarian.
Those old school pulp guys knew how to mine history for their ideas in a way our modern uneducated pop culture makers cannot. I can see how someone exposed to this book of exotic history while it was new would come up with lots of ideas for stories.
Heck, given the last line–whose descendants still linter in the remoter hills–I almost have the idea for a story.
From Our Oriental Heritage, page 373:
But it would be unfair to judge the people from their kings; virtue is not news, and virtuous men, like happy nations, have no history.
He’s talking about the Persians now and the splendid barbarities they paid upon traitors (painful death, razing whole villages in a manner characteristic of a militaristic leader to come later).
However, the quote reminded me a lot of Tolstoy: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
The Story of Civilization series differs from most histories, though, that the Durants spend a lot of time covering non-militaristic and non-Great Man threads of history, focusing on the arts and commerce of civilizations especially under the more enlightened leaders of each.
Our Oriental Heritage page 265:
For barbarism is always around civilization, amid it and beneath it, rady to engulf it by arms, or mass migration, or unchecked fertility. Barbarism is like the jungle; it never admits its defeat; it waits patiently for centuries to recover the territory it lost.
In this volume, the first, this will be a recurring theme. This starts the chapter on Assyria, the barbarians in the equation, about to pounce on the remains of Babylon.
Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. Those who know history issue unheeded warnings to the ignorant and are ignored.