Monday, June 09, 2003

Of course it is difficult for journalists who learned in college that all values are relative, and who remain awestruck by that truth, to weigh the heretical claim that all values may not be relative. But that is precisely what one must do, if only for a moment, in order to understand what Solzhenitsyn is trying to say. To understand requires that one first respect the author's terms; and that means, inter alia, paying attention to things like — the title of his address. Solzhenitsyn spoke of "A World Split Apart," even though, strictly speaking, his discussion of "worlds" occupies only a few paragraphs. A moment's reflection on the title provides a key to the full measure of Solzhenitsyn's indictment of modern society. For Solzhenitsyn's critics have dismissed him as illiberal without realizing that, in truth, he is anti-modern; that his doubts about the modern enterprise are fundamental, comprehensive; that he is asking, not merely, Is there a way out of Communism? but, Is there a way out of modernity? Or more precisely, Is there a way up from modernity?

From a terrific commentary on Solzhenitsyn's (damn that's a bitch to spell) Harvard speech. Read it. Now. "Is there a way out of modernity? Or more precisely, Is there a way up from modernity?" This is, I must say, very much my question as well.