Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thirty years ago ... and counting

Excerpt from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Harvard commencement address, June 8, 1978.

I am not examining the case of a disaster brought on by a world war and the changes which it would produce in society. But as long as we wake up every morning under a peaceful sun, we must lead an everyday life. Yet there is a disaster which is already very much with us. I am referring to the calamity of an autonomous, irreligious humanistic consciousness.

It has made man the measure of all things on earth - imperfect man who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects. We are now paying for the mistakes which were not properly appraised at the beginning of the journey. On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility.

We have placed too much hope in politics and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. It is trampled by the party mob in the East, by the commercial one in the West. This is the essence of the crisis: the split in the world is less terrifying than the similarity of the disease afflicting its main sections.

1 comment:

Lucy said...

True (for me anyway) that human beings are too dismally imperfect, fallible, cruel, stupid etc etc for humanism ever to be a convincing or attractive doctrine. However, I'm not entirely certain that the pre-humanistic middle ages represented a time when people's passions and irresponsibility were restrained in the way this implies?

I often think personal restraining morality is the least good reason for faith in God, though it may have been one of the major ones...