My Commonplace Book (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)

By Dorothy Bryant
Friday December 30, 2011 - 11:41:00 AM

Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name.
from The Dream of John Ball, by William Morris (1834-1898),Artist, writer, textile designer 

The first time I read this I thought Morris was saying that we are just going in meaningless circles of misunderstanding, shape-shifting struggles over problems we never can solve. In other words, we live forever where, as Matthew Arnold put it, “Ignorant armies clash by night.” 

The tenth time I read it I wondered if the ferocious, unending, material struggles are not the reality, after all, but only a metaphor, a crude material enactment of a more spiritual evolutionary struggle we don’t have the brains to understand, let alone find words for.  

At this reading—my twelfth or fiftieth—I don’t know what I think. Am I giving up, or making progress? 


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