Aeneas and Anchises at the river Lethe

Aeneas wond'ring stood, then ask'd the cause
Which to the stream the crowding people draws.

"In Lethe's lake they long oblivion taste,
Of future life secure, forgetful of the past."

Origins 1960

Hannah Arendt on oblivion

"We can no longer afford to take that which was good in the past and simply call it our heritage, to discard the bad and simply think of it as a dead load which by itself time will bury in oblivion. The subterranean stream of Western history has finally come to the surface and usurped the dignity of our tradition. This is the reality in which we live. And this is why all efforts to escape from the grimness of the present into nostalgia for a still intact past, or into the anticipated oblivion of a better future, are vain." - Hannah Arendt, (1950)

Broch, 1962

Lethe, the Aeneid, Aletheia: forgetting and remembering

learn more about Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, and the Aeneid from translations and commentaries at the University of Pennsylvania Vergil Project. Search for Vergil, Virgil, Aeneid, Lethe, Broch, or Haecker in my database for related titles. Enjoy Richard Thomas on the pleasures of open stacks as he explores an actual collection of rare Virgil translations.

Is there an alternative to digging up the past, saving it at the last minute, or forgetting it altogether. Some nice thoughts in: Ralph Hummel: A Once and Future Politics: Heidegger's Recovery of the Political in "Parmenides" from Administrative Theory & Praxis (26, 3, 2004).

Worster, Dust Bowl

Letting Disturbances be your Guide

The wonderful thing about metaphors of flow, disruption, migration, intervention and the like is that they remind us to look up and down the "river" at a much greater ecosystem than we would have noticed had we focused solely on the flooded city, the stranded refugees, or the darkened neighborhoods beneath a highway. We can look at the channels along which water, people, or cars have traveled, the places crossed, the places nourished, dried out, or destroyed; we can study how these channels were built and what effects they have had as they create history all along their path. Historians like Donald Worster and John R. Stilgoe show us that this broader environment is not just an empty space within which interesting history takes place. It is an event in itself, becoming an environment at the moment it is criss-crossed by some disturbance, and then encompassing all of the people and places it touches.

Leonardo Last Supper

Simmel and the Last Supper: a model of pluralism

First reactions are rarely the best. But reflexes are powerful and the noise they make quickly fills up the hall. Only when the rippling flood of simple reflexes briefly calms are there moments of opportunity, rich in possibilities, open to new ideas. A time when it is possible for everyone to make their characteristic contribution, before the supposedly inevitable future has been manufactured into reality. Every change opens up opportunities for us. Do we simply accept the reflex to resist change or the equally banal temptation to discard the old and surrender faster and faster? Georg Simmel knew why art matters: because it can compress the plural reality of this in-between time into one image in a way that no photographic "snapshot" can.

Who are the modern heirs of Simmel's "Das Abendmahl Lionardo da Vincis" (1905), or is it just a display in an exhibit on the history of sociology?.

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