August 4, 2008

Solzhenitsyn, 1918-2008

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn died yesterday. Our loss. Here was a man who, more than most others, challenged the intellectual classes to think about reality. Would that he were even more well known. I find myself thinking I ought to, perhaps, take the time to read through his classic work, The Gulag Archipelago.

At any rate, here is a quote from his bombshell 1978 commencement address at Harvard. Sounds like it could have been written yesterday. Maybe the times they aren't a changin' as much as we think:

If humanism were right in declaring that man is born to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most out of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it. It is imperative to review the table of widespread human values. Its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President's performance be reduced to the question of how much money one makes or of unlimited availability of gasoline. Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise man above the world stream of materialism.

Read the whole address here (thanks JT).

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