The Great Gatsby (1925) is ageless because in it F. Scott Fitzgerald captures the dynamic between two kinds of people — those who already have everything, epitomized in a propitious couple, Tom and Daisy Buchanan:
They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.
… And those whose “sole misfortune,” in the words of Tracy Chapman, “was having mountains of nothing at birth” – personified in the novel’s namesake James Gatz a.k.a. Jay Gatsby:
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——
Despite all the zeal, Gatsby’s impetus to get ahead in life and pursue his dream is a paddle race against the tide of time. It is an effort to relive his one long-gone moment of genuine happiness. Predictably, he never gets to live that dream.
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Whether you’re Tom, Daisy, or Gatsby, salute the past that colors your future.
Saul Griffith has a great talk out on the necessity for us to reduce energy consumption if we are to slow down climate change. I summarized it at an event in Helsinki, my slides are below. Dowload the full Game Plan and measure your own energy consumption on Wattzon.
(Also, this week’s Economist has an informative article on the uncertainty of the science of climate change, which gives additional context to some of the assumptions above.)
In The Shaking of the Foundations Paul Tillich, one of last century’s defining theologicians, quotes the apostle Paul: “For I do not do the good I desire, but rather the evil that I do not desire.”
Paul violently persecuted followers of Jesus prior to his conversion to Christianity. You may not have persecuted anyone, but can you honestly claim your actions have never had unhappy consequences to other people? Tillich’s following lines, written (if I’m not mistaken) in the aftermath of the Second World War, are so riveting that I’ll quote them here at length, with a bit of editing to improve online readability:
“Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound”, says Paul in the same letter in which he describes the unimaginable power of separation and self-destruction within society and the individual soul. He does not say these words because sentimental interests demand a happy ending for everything tragic. He says them because they describe the most overwhelming and determining experience of his life. Read more »