“When was it that one first heard of the truth? The the.” – Wallace Stevens
Perhaps it was in Sunday school, perhaps it was the talk from family members at home, but to point at one point would be going back into a memory that I no longer have any recollection of and be subject to early memory fabrication as psychologists tell us. “The the” though is a powerful notion, one that exists with us despite the revolution of Nietzsche and post modernism. If art likes to imagine that it is the creator of the “the the,” creating out of The Waste Land the meaning left behind by God, dancing around the flame of nihilism with the “eternal yes,” this is only one amongst the many reasons it has broken off from the sciences, whose outward claim of atheism is in fact deeply rooted in “the the.” An unawareness that they have fed into mass consumerism that I imagine will one day catch up with them. In fact, is consuming them as we speak. Will Durant’s essay titled “On the Insight of History” has come back to me again and again in light of the recent elections. As a prolific philosopher and historian, he ended his section on “Morality” with the following paragraph:
“According to this historical alteration of paganism and puritanism, we should expect our present moral laxity to be followed by some return to moral restraint under old or new forms of belief, authority, and censorship. Every age reacts to its predecessor. If a Third World War should come, shattering our cities, and driving the survivors back to agriculture, the age of science may end, and religion may return with its consolatory myths and its moral discipline, and parental authority may be restored.”
The one exception I have found is perhaps in mathematics, where scholars are aware of “the the,” and therefore less unaware than their physicist counterparts. And perhaps at the end then what will rise from the ashes will be religion and mathematics. I don’t know the answer to avoid such dire events. Perhaps it would include ceasing the linguistic mind play we indulge ourselves in, a word play in which the word of peace has been elevated over the action of peace. There is a Sufi saying that knowledge that does not flow rots, and perhaps this is what is happening. The very acute divide between academic and pop culture is where the gap is most present, where the words of peace of the academics does not flow into active peace not only within the general population, but on college campuses where professors are no longer reflections of those they teach.