“What is Man, that you are mindful of him…”

From Dawn to Decadence“… or the Son of Man, that thou visitest Him. For thou hast made Him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned Him with glory.”

I remember this line from one of the Psalms because it was in a choral piece by John Ritter that my high school choir performed. Amazing how putting words to music sears it into your brain, is it not? I was reminded of these words as I read this passage from Jacques Barzun’s magnum opusFrom Dawn to Decadence – 500 Years of Western Cultural History“. I quote it here in it’s entirety and without comment. I think you’ll see why:

… a historian who contemplates the infinite diversity of human character, the range of human desires and powers, the multiplicity of social and political institutions, the endless schemes proposed for improving life, the numberless faiths, codes, and customs passionately adhered to, fiercely hated, and in unceasing warfare, the vast universe of art with its expressions in a galaxy of styles and languages—all these existing to an accompaniment of sacrifice, injustice, and su.ering, persecution imposed or willingly endured—such a historian is persuaded that these challenges to the concrete imagination cannot be merged and reduced to a formula. History is not an agency nor does it harbor a hidden powerl the word history is an ABSTRACTION for the totality of human deeds, and to make their clasing outcomes the fulfullment of some concelaed purpose is tomake huiman beings into puppets. For the same reason, history cannot be a science; it is the very opposite in that its interest resides in the particulars.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

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