Home Truths


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Reading this, it’s easy to despair.

But my irrepressible inner optimist reminds me of something Karl Marx said. Mankind, he suggests, always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve.

If that is true then all we need to do is to embrace the idea of ‘a spiritual and cultural transformation’ where selfishness, greed and apathy become history and new collective values take their place.


I only wish it was. My fear is that things are going to get worse before they can get better. And fear is a big inhibitor of imagination. How to imagine a better future, eh? How to remember the past in a way that helps us construct a brighter world?

Ah, such difficult questions for the solitary blogger! Perhaps TS Eliot can offer  assistance. Here’s the opening of Burnt Norton, the first of his Four Quartets:


“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate,
Into our first world, shall we follow
The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.
There they were, dignified, invisible,
Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,
In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,
And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at.
There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.
So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,
Along the empty alley, into the box circle,
To look down into the drained pool.
Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,
And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.”


Human kind cannot bear very much reality

I wonder? What do you think?


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Image: Flickr


10 thoughts on “Home Truths

  1. Three thoughts:

    1. I love that quote by Gus Speth.

    2. Your logic is faulty. Humankind may never embrace the idea of a spiritual and cultural transformation because that task might be unsolvable. (Actually, it will be the fear of the detrimental effects of damage to the environment to our own lives today that will spur us to change our ways. But it may still be too late.)

    3. I like the poem but I don’t understand it.

    1. 1. Yes – puts the ball firmly back in our court, doesn’t it?

      2. Logic was never my strong point. I think I’m motivated by emotion, with rational thinking limping along some way behind! For me, your comment highlights the bind we are in – a need for change we can’t respond to because our extreme individualism precludes collective action. Self-interest matters and may initiate change, I hope, particularly if our notion of self is expanded to include more socially responsible functions. Very much a work in progress, this, and one I’m really struggling with …

      3. … and that struggle, I suspect, is what attracts me to difficult stuff like Eliot’s poem – no easy answers, because if there were any they’d have been tried. Another Eliot phrase comes to mind – he calls his attempts to find meaning ‘a raid on the inarticulate’ …

      Thanks for your stimulating response, anyway!

  2. Ah, apathy, what a sneaky one that is. I keep seeing it disguised as self-righteousness. More power to all protest on this topic.
    Love the Eliot extract. I don’t think anyone since has managed to build pictures in quite the heart-full way he could.

    1. Giving up and blaming other people for the failure of one’s hopes – something like that? It’s the old question of where private and public intersect, I reckon, now intensified in these social media times. We need to think big, something Eliot certainly tried to do.

      1. Yes, I think that’s just what I mean. Maybe Dave Gilmour’s auction will set the ball rolling. Not the same thing as Eliot’s, but maybe an interesting 21st century approach?

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