An English In Kentucky



















July 27th 2009

"A Space In The Mind Day"

    Gibbon, a most balanced literary man, could not actually decide why Rome declined.  Amongst the many reasons he offered was a change in the nature of citizenship, compounded by a rise in a political class that had as its hallmark a short-sightedness.  This short-sightedness arose from an assumption that Rome was not only 'The Greatest', it was also 'Inevitably Great' and 'Eternally Great'.   Gibbon might have attributed the fall to a political class that perceived power as an end unto itself, rather than attributing it so euphemistically to the single, unhelpful word, decay.

    After the long slow process that was Rome, "The Eternal City" became an idea of a future place.  Thomas Aquinas could claim nations and princes will rise and fall, and conceptually it was much better to have the perfect place somewhere other than on earth, then promise it to correct souls.

    Within the idea of fall is the enemy beyond, the unknown, that object which incurs a strengthening of citizenship around solidarity of nation.  But what are the necessary dimension in securing nationhood?  Men on the moon and on to mars, perhaps.  A victorious army.  The assassination of a President, even.  A winning team.  A Godly Land.  Material definitions of purpose that Clausewitz would recognize as belonging to an endlessness best directed toward a single and not necessarily defined end by well drilled men in suitable outfits.

    And here, for the sake of brevity and with due deference to the great thinkers, their scholarship and attention to detail, I will hesitate only briefly before calling this endlessness  "A Space In The Mind."




    Some might argue that this space in the mind cannot be filled with mortar and then spackled over to conceal it altogether.  Others will suggest this space in the mind has a preexistence and that we are driven by it to search, endlessly.  Others will insist that it is constructed place and receptive to education, training and discipline.  Most will say that left to its own devices this space produces idleness, anarchy, chaos and what might be called 'unhappiness' in the city we are. 

    Existentialists would like this place to be given freedom to roam.  Their opposite, fearful of angst perhaps, would like this place to be disciplined by a predetermined purpose informed by what might be called 'wisdom'.  The more dangerous to sanity are those who would have this predetermined discipline ordained by the authority of a higher and always distant power, who communicates with only a suspicious few of us.  I have wandered months without bathing and still he has not spoken to me.

    The idea of "The Eternal City" belonging to shelter, food and the occasional good conversation, is apparently mystifying.  We are called simplistic and idle, cynical and without ambition, unworldly and uncommitted by those who find purpose in telling others how to be.  

    Yet sometimes it appears our rewards are envied by the obedient upon whom the burdens of endlessness continue to fall.  These will then ingeniously suggest that but for their struggle my world would no longer have television, justice systems, factories or Doppler Radar.  Instead I would live a short life of brutality and ignorance, and probably I would end my days in the belly of a very large cat.

     However, "A Space In the Mind" should not be confused with a "Hole In The Head".  Which in my view was ultimately Gibbons rationalist argument in his beautiful history. 

tim candler

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