Foreword | December 11, 2020
Foreword: Fighting Back
Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray
from the straight road and woke to find myself
alone in a dark wood.
—Dante, The Divine Comedy
While temperamentally many of us imagine human lives to be stable, a simple factual recounting of what happens through time proves that they seldom are. Surprises and shocks are in store for most of us. Bruce Feiler’s new book Life is in the Transitions discusses this idea abstractly and by example from detailed interviews of hundreds of individuals. They show that fixed patterns do not work well as life predictors in such areas as jobs, health, and personal commitments. They also suggest that insofar as we need a set of presumptions about our futures, it should allow for and expect transitions—not just small alterations but big changes. I appreciate this idea because it matches my own life experiences and because it is suggested by the radical changes in understanding in most areas of knowledge, from economics and history to the hard sciences.
Feiler points out that early worldviews were based on natural and cyclical time, partly because of the prevalence of agriculture in human life. Early mythologies were seasonal, though there were exceptions that admitted to linearity or the unexpected, for example in classic religious thought and literature. The nineteenth century moved to a worldview based on mechanical time, which is regular and linear. By the early modern era, the idea of life following a circle had been replaced by a concept of its proceeding through ages or phases or stages that were essentially predictable and fixed.
If you are a student, faculty member, or staff member at an institution whose library subscribes to Project Muse, you can read this piece and the full archives of the Missouri Review for free. Check this list to see if your library is a Project Muse subscriber.
Want to read more?Subscribe Today
SEE THE ISSUE
Dec 11 2020
Foreword: Fighting Back
Fighting Back Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood. —Dante, The Divine Comedy While temperamentally
Sep 29 2020
Foreword: Facing It
An old friend of mine called me in early May to tell me that he was alive, after all. He had caught covid-19 and been on a ventilator, his survival
Jun 19 2020
Foreword: Elemental Force
I happen to have discovered a direct relation between magnetism and light, also electricity and light, and the field it opens is so large and I think rich. —Letter to