Monday, December 10, 2012

The Story of Civilization


Midway through this past year, I wrote a new lead sentence for my official blog description:  21 Essays is my cultural history blog.

It took some trial and error on my part to realize that my initial blog concept was too open-ended.  I thought I wanted complete freedom to write about anything that struck my fancy.  But looking back now, I clearly see that there was a very real connecting link between my favorite pieces.  They all shared a love of cultural history.

When I was young, I read half of Will and Ariel Durant’s 11-volume The Story of Civilization.  By that, I don’t mean that I read midway through volume 6 (which would have left me stranded in the Reformation).  I mean that I read the parts that interested me: the sections that covered the history of literature, art, science, philosophy, and religion, as well as the descriptions of the history of domestic life.  I skipped over the royal intrigues and the endless wars.

Forty years later, I’m still relatively uninterested in the history of power.  As far as I can see, it’s still the same story ever repeating—only the weapons change.  But I love culture more than ever.  The ideas that shape our world are constantly in flux.  Whether in novels, poetry, film, music, or painting, every artist expresses a new interpretation of the world.  There’s a thrilling wildness in the variety and beauty of creation.

So starting in January 2013, 21 Essays will officially be my cultural history blog.  Of course, I won’t be attempting to repeat the Durants’ mad 11-volume achievement and try to cover everything.  I’ll continue to write about the artifacts and artworks that I personally find most exciting, examining them closely and from multiple perspectives in order to (in the words of William Blake) “… see a world in a grain of sand/And a heaven in a wild flower.”

© 2012 Lee Price

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