Colloquies: A Review of Civilization in Little Songs
Nations come and nations go, kingdoms are mostly gone, China intends empire, not certain its people do, though they are hungry for wealth, and are willing to consume the world’s resources, including yours. Our nation will be gone, sooner or later; all nations fade away in exhaustion, neglect, conquest. We are no different.
Our language too shall change, shall fade, shall be subordinated to a foreign language until forgotten, merely an accent of something old and strange. This is the way of change, of nations that forget themselves, as now this nation forgets itself into the memory of a future that will never be. The future is for nations enlivened by their past, as is China enlivened by its past, by its story.
Western nations have forgotten their stories, have forgotten themselves, and will soon be forgotten. The history of nations change in a minute; one rises, one falls, usually by an act of arrogant stupidity, as at Goat’s Creek1. Intellectuals, or what is left of them, have faith in their irony, and in nothing more, being the nihilists who they are. Western intellectuals know everything about nothing worth knowing. Colloquies.
Is there something worth knowing about something. Homer thought so, as did Plato, as did Virgil, as did Saint Augustine, as did Dante, as did Milton, et alia. Each of these intellectuals was a literary artist, a storyteller, a designer of conceptions who composed at the ending of an era2. Usually, these storytellers are thought to be the pinnacle of their epoch, a signal fire from one into another, though in truth each illuminated the story of heroes a generation before, memory of a culture on the downslope.
You will notice China on the upslope, a China that crushes the individual. You will notice that our intellectuals despise the individual, that Western governments ignore the individual, that we each are untethered from the stories of tradition into the freedom of fashions, and are lost, soon to lose. Yes, there are new stories, though no one in the West believes the new stories, not even the storytellers who write them, being as they are artists without belief, artists merely of make-believe.
We were our story. We are our story. We have believed in the story of America. We do not believe the American make-believe. We are likely to lose our story, and lose ourselves.
And yet, each word that here you read is the fossil of an idea. Each string of words is a conception as mathematically incomprehensible as atoms in the galaxy (do the math of variables in this simple sentence and you shall see) and yet this incomprehensible enormity is a thing that is easily reconceived by you, here, now. Yes, what I know is now what you know. Mind, consciousness is a thing different from body. Consciousness outlives a body, the individual body and the body of a nation, and the language of a people.
That which is true can be known, being known can be communicated. That which is beautiful is loved, being loved it is cherished, cherished, it survives when passed from generation to generation. That which is good gives life, from life to life. Which is to say that evil dies because it is dead; that ugliness decays and fades because unloved; that the lie does not long exist because being false it cannot be known.
The West will survive in the Classive: the Beautiful, the Good, the True, things of qualities unchanging. The Classive will survive the Modern nations of the West, as the Classive survived the nations of Antiquity, West and East, South and North. This work, Colloquies: A Review of Civilization in Little Songs, is late in the civilization of the Modern West, is current in the current of the Classive.
We are little changed, we of Athens and Chios, Rome and Antioch, Alexandria and Constantinople, Paris and London, Berlin and Boston, Sao Paulo and San Francisco. We are a people of the Book, first, Iliad, then the Bible; students of Socrates, pupils of Aristotle; we learned love from Ovid, manners from Castiglione, architecture from Palladio; we know heroes from Michelangelo, heroism from Cervantes, ourselves from Shakespeare; we are Miltonic Christians in Dante’s Inferno; we are Jeffersonian liberals in a Newtonian universe bestialized by Darwin, maddened by Freud, and murdered by Marxists.
Listen. Do you hear. Birds yet sing. Young lovers love. Life is born into the world beautiful and new. Listen: Colloquies are the little songs of us, the best in us, the most human, the most humane. Sometimes, you will not understand the conversation of persons far away and long ago, being people of culture and habit some middle distance from your habit and your culture. Yet, listen, they speak to you in hope that you understand.
We all hope to be understood, to live beyond our blink of time, our speck of space. In Colloquies, some 500 persons speak colloquially to one another, to you, and of you to others. With you, these are a people, a Classive people, we who participate in The Great Conversation, the talk of the best which has been thought, said, done.
This nation will pass, perhaps soon, and with it our ways of governance, perhaps too our ways of conduct and knowledge. Even so, if our moralists are correct, the beautiful, good, and true things that we have made shall survive.
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1. Aegospotami, 405 BC, where Lysander destroyed the Athenian fleet.
2. Shakespeare stands apart, rather like a beacon on the ocean’s island rock through of all that came before and of all after.
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Each volume of Colloquies has a unique structure of persons, deeds, and festivals, though each conforms to a 72-sonnet content (1,008 lines). Ordered, the books are, Paideia (pub. 2022), Commentary (pub. 2019), Confession (pub. 2021), Dispute (pub. 2020), Celebration (skd. 2024), Invective (skd. 2023), Secrets (skd. 2025).
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