“The Eternal Return of the Same”

October 23, 2008

“Life must be understood backwards; but… it must be lived forward.”   Soren Kierkegaard

I’ve just started reading Orwell’s 1984, for the first time, and I almost had to put it down. It’s just too real, too true, too prescient, and I couldn’t get into the narrative because I was getting too angry about things happening now.

My mother, a friend and I had the same experience a few years ago at a Shaw Festival production of The Crucible…it’s about Salem, it’s about McCarthyism, and it’s about us, now.

I literally cried one day this past spring when Rage Against the Machine’s “Ghost of Tom Joad” came up on my mp3 player, for the same reason. How do we keep making these same mistakes? How do we keep allowing these same things to happen? How can these texts still be so relevant and necessary, and why can’t we learn?

Life must indeed be lived forward…but it takes the understanding we gain from recognizing our past.  So neither ignorance nor bland nostalgia will be of any use.

(The good news is, I’ve finally managed to limit these feelings enough to get through the book. I’m sure I’ll finish it soon.)


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