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 By the early modern era, the idea of life following a circle had been replaced by a concept of its proceeding through ages or phases or stages that were essentially predictable and fixed.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
May 17 2022
Foreword: Take Heart
Take Heart Plato banished poets and playwrights from his ideal Republic because he felt they dealt in irrationality and half-truths. Only philosophers, who deal in absolute truths, could occupy his
Jan 07 2022
Foreword: How Did I Get Here?
“How did I get here?” is a recurring question in one of my favorite songs, “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads. It is an anthem to the uncertainty
Aug 20 2021
Foreword: Moving On
Moving On When excited about a piece of writing, I often sense a largeness to it that exceeds what I first fully understand. As an editor, I’ve had that experience