Drifting in 1916

“There is a vast literature at the present day, — I am, alas, only too well acquainted with it, — a literature which threatens to choke our libraries and to cause all quarterly magazines to be published twice a week — a literature to which theologians, philosophers, playwrights, novelists, and sociologists make incessant contributions — which might be truthfully described as the literature of ‘Where are we?’ — or, to be strictly accurate, the literature of ‘Where the devil are we?’.  In all this literature we encounter civilization as a drifter at the mercy of currents. Whether some conscious power other than the will of man regulates the course of the drift, is a question I do not here discuss. Enough that it does not appear to be regulated by the conscious will of man”.

L P Jacks, “Our Drifting Civilization”, The Atlantic Monthly, March 1916

We are currently reading this article for no good reason; but it is so far holding our attention.

No doubt this sudden interest in our motley collection of ephemeral literature is due in large part to the fact that, once again, we are preparing to travel — or, to embark, as some would prefer to say; and, as we are already burdened both by the things we cannot but take and by the things we cannot but leave behind, books and bound-treasures must, again, stay put, and lie dormant.

Reading Jacks might be worth the effort. Quo vadis? – asked individually, if in unison – is rarely a foolish enquiry.


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