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[散文分享] Excerpts from Fallen Leaves by Will Durant

本帖最後由 felicity2010 於 2015-5-27 12:41 AM 編輯
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Excerpts from Fallen Leaves by Will Durant
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Men ought to die at their zenith, but they do not; and therefore youth and death meet each other as they walk the streets. At Columbia University, many years ago, a happy student, wandering among the bookshelves of the library, came abruptly face-to-face, round a turn in the stacks, with a bent and white-haired man of perhaps some eighty years.They looked at each other silently; but in his heart the young man said,“There, but for the lack of time, go I,” and in his eyes the old man said, “I,too, was once young like you; hungry for knowledge, hopeful of achievement,eager for change. Now I spend my nights sleeplessly in remembering little things, and my days in poring over yellow newspapers that tell excitedly of the time when I was young.” And once the youth paused in the street at the sight of an old man buttressed with sideboards and leaning on a cane, looking awed and timid at the Niagara of automobiles pouring down Fifth Avenue. The lined and sallow face, kindly but puzzled to irritation, showed the subtle tragedy of a generation left rudely behind by a tumultuously changing world. Perhaps it is for such souls that the mills of the gods grind exceedingly slow, lest the mind of man should break under the strain of endless transformations.
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* a$ ~1 a! Z+ G/ w4 g' Z+ s# cWhat is old age? Fundamentally, no doubt, it is a condition of the flesh, of protoplasm that finds inevitably the limit of its life. It is a physiological and psychological involution. It is a hardening of the arteries and categories, an arresting of thought and blood; a man is as old as his arteries, and as young as his ideas. The ability to learn decreases with each decade of our lives, as if the association fibers of the brain were accumulated and overlaid in inflexible patterns. New material seems no longer to find room, and recent impressions fade as rapidly as a politician’s promises, or the public’s memory of them. As decay proceeds,threads and unities are lost, and coordination wavers; the old man falls into a digressive circumstantiality, and De Quincey’s “anecdotage” comes.  ?0 K) k0 B, s/ Q+ F
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Then, just as the child grew more rapidly the younger it was, so the old man ages more quickly with every day.And just as the child was protected by insensitivity on its entry into the world,so old age is eased by an apathy of sense and will, and nature slowly administers a general anesthesia before she permits Time’s scythe to complete the most major of operations.
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As sensations diminish in intensity, the sense of vitality fades; the desire for life gives way to indifference and patient waiting; the fear of death is strangely mingled with the longing for repose. Perhaps then, if one has lived well, if one has known the full term of love and all the juice and ripeness of experience, one can die with some measure of content, clearing the stage for a better play.
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But what if the play is never better,always revolving about suffering and death, telling endlessly the same idiotic tale? There’s the rub, and there’s the doubt that gnaws at the heart of wisdom,and poisons age. Here is shameless adultery and brutal, calculating murder.Well, they have always been, and apparently they always will be. Here is a flood, sweeping before it a thousand lives and the labor of generations. Here are bereavements and broken hearts, and always the bitter brevity of love. Here still are the insolence of office and the law’s delay, corruption in the judgment seat, and incompetence on the throne. Here is slavery, stupefying toil that makes great muscles and little souls.
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& [! f6 j  b8 X1 R7 }! f: r公仔箱論壇Here and everywhere is the struggle for existence, life inextricably enmeshed with war. All life living at the expense of life, every organism eating other organisms forever. Here is history, a futile circle of infinite repetition: these youths with eager eyes will make the same errors as we, they will be misled by the same dreams; they will suffer, and wonder, and surrender, and grow old.
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本帖最後由 felicity2010 於 2015-5-27 12:45 AM 編輯
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Only one thing is certain in history,and that is decadence; only one thing is certain in life, and that is death.This can be the great tragedy of old age, that, looking back with inverted romantic eye, it may see only the suffering of mankind. It is hard to praise life when life abandons us, and if we speak well of it even then it is because we hope we shall find it again, of fairer form, in some realm of disembodied and deathless souls.TVBNOW 含有熱門話題,最新最快電視,軟體,遊戲,電影,動漫及日常生活及興趣交流等資訊。; H. w. S% }- L, B2 X/ {

+ o! \; |, _1 ^& s) c* q公仔箱論壇And yet what if it is for life’s sake that we must die? In truth we are not individuals; and it is because we think ourselves such that death seems unforgivable. We are temporary organs of the race, cells in the body of life; we die and drop away that life may remain young and strong. If we were to live forever, growth would be stifled and youth would find no room on the earth. Death, like style, is the removal of rubbish,the circumcision of the superfluous.
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We separate a portion of ourselves from the body that is aging, and call it a child; through our undiscourageable love we pass our vitality on to this new form of us before the old form dies;through parentage we bridge the chasm of the generations, and elude the enmity of death. Here, even in the flood, children are born; in the chaos of a car crowded with refugees, twins suddenly appear; there, solitary in a tree, and surrounded by raging waters, a mother nurses her babe. In the midst of death life renews itself immortally.
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9 C* S+ |- a% L5 h% }6 ]TVBNOW 含有熱門話題,最新最快電視,軟體,遊戲,電影,動漫及日常生活及興趣交流等資訊。So wisdom may come as the gift of age,and seeing things in place, and every part in its relation to the whole, may catch that full perspective in which understanding pardons all. If it is one test of philosophy to give life a meaning that shall conquer death, wisdom will show that corruption comes only to the part, that life itself is deathless while we die.
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Three thousand years ago a man thought that man might fly, and so he built himself wings, and Icarus—his son—trusting them and trying to fly, fell into the sea. Undaunted, life carried on the dream. Thirty generations passed, and Leonardo da Vinci, spirit made flesh,scratched across his drawings (drawings so beautiful that one catches one’s breath with pain on seeing them) plans and calculations for a flying machine, and left in his notes a little phrase that, once heard, rings like a bell in the memory—“There shall be wings.” Leonardo failed and died, but life carried on the dream. Generations passed, and men said man would never fly, for it was not the will of God. And then man flew, and the age long challenge of the bird was answered. Life is that which can hold a purpose for three thousand years and never yield. The individual fails, but life succeeds. The individual is foolish, but life holds in its blood and seed the wisdom of generations. The individual dies, but life, tireless and undiscourageable, goes on, wondering,longing, planning, trying, mounting, longing.TVBNOW 含有熱門話題,最新最快電視,軟體,遊戲,電影,動漫及日常生活及興趣交流等資訊。% ^" a( h7 \1 R8 O4 {2 S1 C, j
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Here is an old man on the bed of death,harassed by helpless friends and wailing relatives. What a terrible sight it is—this thin frame with loosened and cracking flesh, this toothless mouth in a bloodless face, this tongue that cannot speak and these eyes that cannot see!To this pass youth has come, after all its hopes and trials, to this pass middle age, after all its torment and its toil. To this pass health and strength and joyous rivalry (this arm once struck blows and fought for victory in virile games). To this pass knowledge, science, and wisdom. For seventy years this man with pain and effort gathered knowledge; his brain became the storehouse of a varied experience, the center of a thousand subtleties of thought and deed; his heart through suffering learned gentleness as his mind learned understanding;seventy years he grew from an animal into a man capable of seeking truth and creating beauty. But death is upon him, poisoning him, choking him, congealing his blood, gripping his heart, bursting his brain, rattling in his throat.Death wins.: E5 r4 Y! M$ f% o- [% x

- \/ V0 ^# `! q4 B8 T, mtvb now,tvbnow,bttvbOutside on the green boughs birds twitter gaily, and Chantecler sings his hymn to the sun. Light streams across the fields; buds open, and stalks confidently lift their heads; the sap mounts in the trees. Here are children; what is it that makes them so joyous, running madly over the dew-wet grass, laughing, calling, pursuing, eluding, panting for breath, inexhaustible? What energy, what spirit and happiness! What do they care about death? They will learn and grow and love and struggle and create,and lift life up one little notch, perhaps, before they die. And when they pass they will cheat death with their children, with parental care that will make their children a little finer than themselves.! f' ^0 r$ `" y  O8 S5 I

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本帖最後由 felicity2010 於 2015-5-27 12:54 AM 編輯 公仔箱論壇' f/ E0 _, v$ O# S' h2 u

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These steeples, everywhere pointing upward, ignoring despair and lifting hope, these lofty city spires, or simple chapels in the hills—they rise at every step from the earth to the sky; in every village of every nation on the globe they challenge doubt and invite weary hearts to consolation. Is it all a vain delusion? Is there nothing beyond life but death, and nothing beyond death but decay? We cannot know. But as long as men suffer, those steeples will remain.  d; \. H: q' t8 U: ~4 M5 l  n
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Now would seem an appropriate time to examine whether or not anything of us survives the apparent finality of our existence. This requires some definitions of things such as matter, space,time, sensation, perception, mind, self, consciousness, and soul. Kant took eight hundred pages to do this; but as my mind is not as complex as his, I shall be content with far less.
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$ }* n" f6 g. y/ z6 \0 F9 rwww3.tvboxnow.comBy matter I mean that which occupies space. Theoretical physics, which is becoming another metaphysics, reduces matter to an almost spaceless energy, but this strikes me as a form of mysticism. I continue to perceive objects that occupy space, and I believe that objects can exist whether I perceive them or not. I find this view confirmed by a million experiments and a billion fellow men, which is enough. I admit that the object is not known to me as it is independently of my perception; it is changed, as it enters my ken, by the structure and condition of my senses, by the nature of the intervening medium, and by the character and incidence of the light falling upon the object and upon my eyes. But if I do suppose that my perceptions created the object I can easily disillusion myself in Samuel Johnson’s brusque way—by kicking a sturdy stone.公仔箱論壇1 h8 P! w0 g# _& [* ^% c
Space, subjectively, is the coexistence of perceptions—perceiving two objects at once, one to the right or left of,under or above, the other; objectively, it is the possibility and medium of motion. Time, subjectively, is the conscious sequence of perceptions—one after the other; objectively, it is the possibility of change. The trees will grow and wither whether I perceive them or not; seasons will succeed one another whether or not there is an eye to watch their procession; dying trees may fall even if no ear is near to hear their crash. The world is not “my idea,” as Schopenhauer called it; it is a stern reality of which you and I are passing spawns.
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2 T) f: z1 M+ {2 p* _/ ]If I define matter as that which occupies space, I must conclude that mind is immaterial, since, to my direct and repeated introspection, it gives no sign of occupying space. It embraces a mile with no more effort than in contemplating an inch. By mind I mean the totality of perceptions, memories, and ideas in an organism, sometimes with consciousness thereof. A sensation is the feeling of an external stimulus or an internal condition. It may be unconscious and produce an unconscious reaction,as when you tickle the sole of my foot while I sleep and my toes curl up in a reflex action. A sensation becomes a perception when awareness ascribes it to a cause or place—“a pain in the ear,” “a thunderclap.”, r! U/ u2 L: ~8 U% p9 j

: Q% U9 l  s# U* K3 M0 [www3.tvboxnow.comSensations, perceptions, memories, and ideas have material correlates in the nervous system, but they are something added to these correlates; it is this something that we can become aware of in introspection. I know that David Hume amused himself by reducing mind to a stream of perceptions or ideas, but he did not take himself very seriously. In addition to that succession of mental states there is, by the direct witness of introspection, a sense of continuity and personality constituting the “self”; there is, or can be, a consciousness which distinguishes waking from sleeping, and perception from memory. This has been a thorn in the metaphysics of every materialist.
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1 P2 Q: t9 E! xtvb now,tvbnow,bttvbAt this point the psychoanalyst reminds me that much of my personality and my thinking is influenced, at times directed,by the “subconscious mind.” I would rather call this the physiological self—the storing, in our nervous system, of past (even prenatal, even racial)sensations, actions, desires, and fears. These can enter into our dreams, when there is no waking conscious self to check past memory with present perception;and they can enter into our waking consciousness when some present experience arouses a related memory stored in the nerves. Such dormant recollections are part of the self and the soul; consciousness is not all of the soul, but only the soul’s supreme achievement.
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By the soul, as distinct from the mind,I mean an inner directive and energizing force in every body, and in every cell and organ of a body. It is closely associated with the breath (which, like the soul, was once termed spiritus), and it gradually dies if breathing permanently stops; but it is more than respiration, for it can rise from mere breathing to the subtlest functions of the body or the mind. When I introspect I perceive not merely sensations and ideas but desire, will, ambition, and pride as vital phases of me. Spinoza was right: “desiderium ipsa essentia hominis”—desire is the very essence of man. We are living flames of desire until we admit final defeat. Will is desire expressed in ideas that become actions unless impeded by contrary or substitute desires and ideas. Character is the sum of our desires,fears, propensities, habits, abilities, and ideas.
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It is this soul or psyche, this steaming fountain of desires and thoughts, that forms the body and the face, limited by heredity and environment, and following the lines upon which ancestral souls have molded ancestral forms. When the amoeba extends itself into a temporary arm to clutch and enclose some wanted object, desire is molding that arm; and if such desires are so expressed through many lives and generations, the soul or directive force of the embryo may generate a permanent arm. I leave Darwin here, and revert with cautious modifications to Lamarck. I believe that in everything there is some formative force like that which I call soul. So I echo Spinoza again: “omnia quodammodo animata”—all things are in some way animated—even if it is only the dance of electrons in an apparently lifeless stone.
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With diffidence and humility I depart from Spinoza in rejecting determinism. For determinism would make consciousness a superfluous encumbrance, and I doubt if so remarkable a development would have persisted if it had no value for survival. Part of its value is that it can serve as a rehearsal stage for testing diverse possible responses to a situation, imagining or forecasting the results of each potential response in the light of remembered experience, and letting the rehearsal affect the final action. Delayed reaction allows time for every important aspect of a situation to enter consciousness and to arouse a reply; in this way, response can be intelligent and adequate. If consciousness had no effect upon action, if every response was a mechanical reaction to a mechanical stimulus, waking life would be but another dream; unconscious forces would determine every perception,feeling, and idea.www3.tvboxnow.com8 ]+ y4 e. {" E( C, H2 m
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I admit that in bare logic determinism seems irrefutable. Each moment in the history of the universe seems to follow inevitably from the condition and components of the preceding moment, and this from its predecessor, until every line of Shakespeare’s plays finds its distant cause and explanation in some gaseous primeval nebula. This is harder to believe than any medieval miracle story. Iincline to trust my immediate internal perception beyond any parade of syllogisms. How many things have been “proved” by “logic” and then discarded by later logicians—Euclidian propositions by Gauss and Riemann, Newtonian physics by Einstein. Logic itself is a human creation, and may be ignored by the universe.- [3 ]1 P% o' Y) \+ R, p! n

" [& j: a/ v$ }0 x) s公仔箱論壇There is an escape from the mechanical argument if we believe, as I do, that all nature includes some power of spontaneity, which becomes more and more complex as we rise from gases to human beings. In humans, besides heredity, environment, and circumstance (the determinist trinity), there is the expansive, driving, “procreant urge” of the soul; growth would be unintelligible without it. In addition to mechanical forces operating in me there is me, no mere machinery of sensation, memory, and response, but a force and will bearing the imprint and character of my self. I do not know what modest measure of freedom and origination I enjoy, but when I introspect I see no mechanism, but ambition, desire, will. Desire, not experience, is the essence of life; experience becomes the tool of desire in the enlightenment of mind and the pursuit of ends.
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But if there is any element of freedom in my actions how can these find an opening, a way of operating, in an external world allegedly subject to the laws of mechanics and a deterministic fatality?They can because that external world may itself be no blind machine but a scene of diverse, often conflicting, vitalities and wills; and the “laws” of mechanics may be only the approximate average result, in the large, of those abounding forces. Physics itself seems to be moving toward such a conclusion,as in Werner Heisenberg’s “principle of indeterminacy,” and in Niels Bohr’s conception of a duplex world—one internal and “concave,” the other external and“convex,” each with its own ways and laws. Or as Spinoza put it, reality is one substance with everywhere two (among many)attributes or aspects—material extension and spaceless thought. We are among those parts of reality that can perceive—now in the body, now in the mind—both the external form and the internal life.
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Though I am fond of my unique soul, I do not expect it to survive the complete death of my body. Death is the breakup of the human soul—i.e., of the life-giving, form-molding force—of an organism into those partial souls that animate individual parts of the body; so these lesser souls can for a time continue the growth of hair and nails on a corpse. And when the corpse completely disintegrates there will be souls, or inner energizing powers, even in the “inorganic” fragments that remain. But my soul as me is bound up with my organized and centrally directed body, and with my individual memories, desires, and character; it must suffer disintegration as my body decays.公仔箱論壇& r! ~% P1 m  v3 m4 L6 |1 L
Here again I depart from my favorite philosopher, Spinoza. You will recall that toward the end of his Ethics he dallied with the idea of a kind of intellectual immortality: we can feel ourselves immortal, he suggested, insofar as we view things or ideas sub speciea eternitatis—in the perspective of eternity; then our thoughts will be immortal in the sense that they will be immune to time; we shall to that degree be part of the divine mind, which sees all things in an eternal light. Santayana comforted his materialism with a similar fantasy. But which of us has ever seen, or can ever see, things in the perspective of eternity, or be ever sure that he knows the truth?
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I am quite content with mortality; I should be appalled at the thought of living forever, in whatever paradise. As I move on into my nineties my ambitions moderate, my zest in life wanes; soon I shall echo Caesar’s Jam satis vixi—“I have already lived enough.” When death comes in due time, after a life fully lived, it is forgivable and good. If in my last gasps I say anything contrary to this bravado, pay no attention to me.We must make room for our children.6 z" S, w3 O: P, n9 \% Y

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