Sunday, October 04, 2009

War and Peace (7)

On understanding history.

Because we see out of the past only the general historical interest of that period, and we do no see all the personal human interests of the men of that time. And yet in reality these personal interests of the immediate present are of so much greater importance than public interests, that they prevent the public interest from every being felt—from being noticed at all, indeed. The majority of the people of that period took no heed of the general progress of public affairs, and were only influenced by their immediate personal interests. And those very people played the most useful part in the work of the time.

Those who were striving to grasp the general course of events, and trying by self-sacrifice and heroism to take a hand in it, were the most useless members of society; they saw everything upside down, and all that they did with the best intentions turned out to be useless folly…

In historical events we see more plainly than ever the law that forbids us to taste of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. It is only unself-conscious activity that bears fruit, and the man who plays a part in an historical drama never understands its significance. If he strives to comprehend it, he is stricken with barrenness (p. 1072).

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