Everything Looks Permanent Until Its Secret Is Known
commentary by Blake Hood
EMERSON, in his “Circles,” eloquently expressed the ever-changing nature of reality:
There are no fixtures in Nature. The Universe is fluid and volatile. Permanence is but a word of degrees. Our globe seen by God is a transparent law, not a mass of facts. The law dissolves the facts and holds it fluid. Our culture is the predominance of an idea which draws after it this chain of cities and institutions. Let us rise into another idea: They will disappear. The Greek sculpture is all melted away, as if it had been statues of ice; here and there a solitary figure or fragment remaining, as we see flecks and scraps of snow left in cold dells and mountain clefts, in June and July. For the genius that created it creates now somewhat else. The Greek letters last a little longer, but are already passing under the same sentence, and tumbling into the inevitable pit which the creation of new thought opens for all that is old. The new continents are built out of the ruins of an old planet; the new races fed out of the decomposition of the foregoing. New arts destroy the old. See the investment of capital in aqueducts made useless by hydraulics; fortifications, by gunpowder; roads and canals, by railways; sails, by steam; steam by electricity.
You admire this tower of granite, weathering the hurts of so many ages. Yet a little waving hand built this huge wall, and that which builds is better than that which is built. The hand that built can topple it much faster. Better than the hand, and nimbler, was the invisible thought that wrought through it; and thus ever, behind the coarse effect, is a fine cause, which, being narrowly seen, is itself the effect of a finer cause. Everything looks permanent until its secret is known.
A rich estate appears to a woman a firm and lasting fact; to a merchant, one easily created out of any materials, and easily lost. An orchard, good tillage, good grounds, seem a fixture, like a gold mine, or a river, to a citizen; but to a large farmer, not much more fixed than the state of a crop. Nature looks provokingly stable and secular, but it has a cause like all the rest; and whence I comprehend that, will these fields stretch so immovably wide, these leaves hang so individually considerable? Permanence is a word of degrees. Everything is medial. Moons are no more bounds to spiritual power than bat-balls.
The job of the ruling class is to convince people that the world in which they live is fixed and permanent. This is the first and most important lie they tell. The lie that the values, institutions, and great mega-cities are here to stay forever. They endlessly repeat that it is the only way life could ever be — or should ever be. The arrogance of the ‘End of History.’
But the world can change. In fact, that is all the world ever does — change. The beautiful old buildings and cathedrals are simply manifestations of our blood seized by an idea during a particular time. It is the blood which is the most precious in the end — not the things that it creates.
But that blood needs the spirit. It needs a new animating idea for things to change. That new idea is the Volkish idea.
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