The Other End of Nowhere
Once upon a time, people spun theories of history.
In Finnegan’s Wake, which (trust me) I haven’t read from cover to cover, James Joyce plays with Giambattista Vico’s theory of cycles in history: the age of gods, the age of heroes, the age of humans. Marx and Engels gave us historical materialism: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The Enlightenment gave us various forms of Progressivism, which amount in sum to the patent idiocy that things are always getting better.
I may be among the few who do not believe in pendulum swings. I know, I know: it very much appears that a Carter gives us a Reagan and an Obama gives us a Trump, but it seems to me it’s more sensible to think of a child on a rocking horse who, though he changes his mind as he rocks, isn’t actually going anywhere: it’s neither progress nor regress.
“Progress,” Mr. Chesterton wrote in Heretics, “is a comparative of which we have not settled the superlative.” We never will.