The Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy Fund and its work, including the ongoing expansion of this website, are entirely dependent on private contributions, which are fully tax-deductible. We welcome your support of our efforts. Please consider making a donation to the Fund here.

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy Live! »

Lecture 01

{ } = word or expression can’t be understood
{word} = hard to understand, might be this


What a change has come over this campus in the last 20 years! Yet, if I talk
to you about the changing college, you look rather incredulous. You say, “Oh,
well. Dartmouth College is the same all the time.” And everybody wants to think
that Dartmouth College is more or less identified through the last 160 years. But
it isn’t.

However, your story reminds me of a good remark of John {Crosby’s} on
television. He had to look, and look, and look; and see a dog run, and run, and
run. And he got tired of all the animals, the chimpanzee. And he thought he had
seen a horse run before, and he had seen a dog run before, and he had even a
chimpanzee move before, and climb a tree. And so he burst forward and said,
“Well, what’s new about it? I’ve seen this since time immemorial–or what
amounts to the same thing–since I was 12.”

There you have it. Anything that has been this way since you have been
12–and that would be 1945, wouldn’t it? — be the end of World War II; by and
large, you are 20 now–so everything that has existed after World War II for you
is “since time immemorial.” And you have no memory. Because “immemorial”
means not outside human memory, in the technical sense of not being able to be
known; no, it just means that you don’t remember any change. And that’s how
we all live — live day by day, and think that the world has existed as we see it,
more or less, always. It hasn’t.

However, great men have held this opinion. And let me tell you a — story
that’s just as funny as John {Crosby’s} remark.

A very great American jurist, Roscoe Pound, was invited by this college to
tell us what to do with the college as a result of World War II. It was in the midst
of this conflagration, and people were serious, because it wasn’t quite sure that
we might win easily over Hitler. It was in 1943. And we asked him to tell us
about the future of the liberal arts college, implying of course that perhaps the
war should make a difference. Well, we were very much surprised when the
mighty Roscoe Pound, the master of the common law, told us that “wars come
and go. Don’t change anything. Education will remain just the same.”

Now you see, education, and history, and wars had very little to do with
each other. Roscoe Pound did not think that we had to remember the war. He
left it to the history departments to write the scientific history of World War II, as

they had written the scientific history of World War I.

As soon as history is made into a departmentalized thing, obviously his-
tory must not be told. It can be told. It’s a luxury. It’s a very interesting sideline.
It’s a hobby. It’s not as unimportant as to collect all the spiders. It is not unwor-
thy of a great scholar to collect spiders. Sometimes it may even be important. You
remember perhaps the story of Lionel Rothschild, the last heir of the British great
family of the Rothschilds, the bankers. Well, he became a zoologist and said he
had to go to Tibet, to the Himalayas, north of India, to investigate a flea. Of all
things, a flea. The family was so disgusted that they disinherited him. And they
paid him out something. But he ceased to be a member of the banker — trust — of
the corporation.

Well, he went to Tibet, and he found that flea which is responsible for the
bubonic plague in India. Because it sits on the elephant, and so on and so forth–I
don’t know the details of the story. But certainly Lionel Rothschild, by going off
to investigate a flea, became a very useful member of the human family. But on
the other hand, you will admit: when he did it, he could not prove his point that
it had to be investigated. The history of the fleas, perhaps, must not be told. And
at least, you will admit, you and I can be satisfied with the result that there is no
bubonic plague now imported into the ports of the United States. But on the
other hand, not everybody can study the flea.

Is history such a specialized thing, too? Is it able to confine it to the history
department, and to the majoring — majors in history, and to the people who take
the Ph.D. in some special study on the housing conditions in Philadelphia in
1759? I don’t think so. I think that Roscoe Pound and you prove both, that his-
tory must be told. We have to tell the people what an epoch-making event is that
changes education.

And I would therefore define in the first place that to me, history is all that
which explains why education has to keep changing. History are those events
which make it dangerous, which make it intolerable that people should live as
though they lived from time immemorial. They must live from time memorial-
ized. And that’s not a pun, because it means that they must be shocked out of
their existence as of today. And they must be told that today was not the result of

One of the habits, of course, of that mind which thinks that history is just
the Encyclopaedia Britannica, is just a register of facts–1066 and all that, well,
one of their pet ideas is that history is everything that was yesterday, and that
yesterday has produced today, and that we then automatically will land in some

Now obviously, this is not so, with World War II. World War II makes
epoch in education, because much more public spirit and much more public
service will be required in five years from all of you. On the other hand, we don’t
care to remember all the nonsense that went on and wasted the lives at cocktail
parties under Prohibition. Better forget it. There are many, many unimportant
things of yesterday which do not influence — tomorrow, I hope. At least they
shouldn’t. And perhaps they could only be mentioned in — with regard to “they
shouldn’t.” They should not influence the future. But in both cases, the past is
dynamite. The past must be mentioned with regard to those things which have
demanded and still demand our changing conditions, and those which we must
not repeat, which we must only remember in order to make sure that they shall
not return. “I shall return,” yes, but those things shall not return.

So all history is dualistic. It sits in judgment and eliminates certain
things–like slavery–which we do not wish to have come back upon us after the
Civil War, even if we find out that the result of the abolition of slavery is as diffi-
cult as the judicial opinion of the Supreme Court on segregation. Obviously
that’s still one consequence. You either have to go back to slavery, or you have to
follow it up by new decisions. Then we learn a second thing about these strange,
memorialized events which break our idea that everything is from time im-
memorial. We learn that they are still making demands on us in the future, that
what has been created in the past may have been just a starting point. And if we
do not carry on, we deny the past.

That is now very strange, because we suddenly see: the past is still ahead
of us. It is surrounding us in the sense that what we did at first, long ago, hasn’t
yet been finished, and that we can cancel everything that has been done by our
forefathers if we do not stick to it. and how can we stick to their deeds, and how
can we be loyal to what they have done if we have no memory of the times
demanded from them what to do in a very unexpected way?

Always comes to me the story of a friend of mine, which shows how his-
tory can become very unpleasant, and how people really do prefer at times to
forget it all. He was a professor of philosophy, and he wrote a wonderful book
on Nietzsche — before the Second World War, between the wars. He was already
impressed by the crisis of our civilization and he devoted 10 years of his life to
understanding the prophecy of this dark prophet of doom. Why had Nietzsche
already left behind all nationalism, and all optimism, and all easy-go-lucky
pleasantness of an existence, which gave the individual the security that if he
only fulfilled his own demands of pleasure, or leisure, of ease, that that was all
he was in this world for — to do?

Well, my friend, in these 10 years, acquainted himself not only with Nietz-

sche, but of course absorbed the main lesson that you have to stand for what you
teach. And when the war broke out, he volunteered and became a private, at the
age of 40, with two children at home and a wife. And he went out, and he passed
his exam later then as an officer candidate with the highest number of points in
the whole district of the army in which he was trained. And he was promoted of
course to lieutenant. And he left the war as a captain.

And later on then, he came to me and said, “What a fool I’ve been. If I had
gotten myself a commission, like one of these pleasant colonels who never saw
battle, or action, but were just colonels on the staff of a general, I would have
been now a person of influence. They would have perhaps listened to me in my
ideas about the treatment of Europe — in the aftermath of the war. But I’m a
captain; and that’s next to nothing, and I just have been a fool.”

And then I could take him up on his real faith, and I said, “This is the
philosophy of the ashcan. The — of course, you abolish the real history of your
heart, and this is very decent on your part. You now look back and you say, ‘Oh
what a fool I have been.’ But I certainly prefer the fool you have been in 1941 to
the wise man you try to be now. It is one thing to know afterwards that the sacri-
fice was a sacrifice, and cost you some of your power and your influence. And it
is another thing to be very grateful that some people in the first place have acted
as you did in 1941 and 1942, because that, to tell you the truth, is the only reason
why the United States of America won the war. If nobody had entered as you
did, regardless of the consequences, just to set the example of the common man’s
duty to serve, we certainly wouldn’t have had the spirit to go through with all
the efforts which were demanded.”

And so the philosophy of the ashcan abolishes the real history, always.
And you will understand that I’m not impressed by this idea that — “Ah, don’t tell
me that these boys had spirit and that it took guts to go to war.” At the end of
war, even this is easily forgotten, what it took to win the war. The dream world,
which says, “Oh, from time immemorial has America been the leading power,” is
widespread in this country. You really, at this moment, believe that in 1850 the
United States were more or less already in the prosperous position of a creditor
nation. They weren’t. They were debtors of Europe. They were very much in
danger to be invaded by the French–by the Spaniards, even, to a certain
extent–but at least by the British, and the Germans; in Texas, there was a
German settlement. And nothing was safe and sure. The Russians were in Alas-
ka. And you cannot abolish history with this philosophy of the ashcan, and say
that all the fighting from Sam Houston to Gettysburg was good-for-nothing, and
that it would have happened anyway. I’ve seen people argue of course in this
line violently in this country that if we had had no immigration, and hadn’t
become the melting pot of the races, the number of people living in the United

States would be just as numerous. By mere natural procreation of — I don’t know,
of the first, probably, {Potacasset} lady and — in Massachusetts. I don’t know
where they restrict white man’s immigration. Probably to the Presbyterians from
North Ireland, and to some families from England. And that would be the end of
the pedigree, so to speak, of the people who had then the honor to fill now this
continent with 200 million people.

You see, this is arbitrary. Whenever you try to stop history at one point,
you suddenly catch yourself, that you do not understand the spirit of man. The
spirit which induced my friend, the writer of Nietzsche, to enter the army as a
private is the only spirit which enables you and me to say that Nietzsche may
have also saved the United States from going Communist, and from having a
future. Because if you follow the philosophy of the ashcan, you separate all the
sacrifices that have made man who he is today from your own existence. You say
that you could exist without my friend volunteering, without Nietzsche going
mad, without anybody doing anything as a free man and in an extraordinary
manner. And you have then nothing to go on for your own future: the abolition
of slavery, then you do not know whether to carry on the equality of the races.
You may be impressed by the South African policy of complete segregation. You
may say, “Well, why not?” You cannot say this in the United States. The die is
cast. If you do not wish to deny the terrible years from Fort Sumter to Appomat-
tox, you have to say, “We have now to go on. We are committed.”

And it is better to do one thing straight, and really, and thoroughly, than
to halt halfway and to do nothing. To be divided will produce nothing, because
it will only produce suspended animation, lukewarmness, and certainly no child-
ren. The fecundity of the human race is based on the white heat of decision and
the good conscience that we are in harmony with past action, and for this reason,
have a future.

Now this is very practical. If I see the signs of the times right, not only do
you think that this college has existed always, you also are very doubtful about
the prospects of a happy life for your grandchildren. You hear it said very often,
“Oh, my! The bomb will explode, and the war will go — down and perish in fire.”
And Jonathan Edwards, as a matter of fact, in his history of the human race,
called the “economy of salvation” in 1758 — the man in Northampton, and
Connecticut dearly did predict that we would perish, as now the prophets of
doom tell us we must.

In other ways, I’m trying to say very simply: he who has no past also has
no future. If you think that this campus has lived from time immemorial, you are
very uncertain immediately how long it will last, because you have made no
arrangements for the future yourself. You will depend on the accident of some-

body else throwing a bomb or not throwing a bomb. That’s unworthy of a man,
and unworthy of a nation, of any group; you want to be sovereign. We are only
sovereign if we can dispose of the means of the future. Let somebody throw a
bomb; we’ll rebuild it if you know that the thing you have to rebuild is worth it.

Nobody would dare to say this in — at this moment, that we would have
to rebuild New York and stand up today once it is destroyed by bombs. Perhaps
everybody feels already that we should build better cities, fewer cities, more
country. That’s just an example of how our future very much depends on accid-
ent, as long as we have no past to show the away.

A man has as much future as he has past. A nation, as the United States,
lost its sense of telling a certain and a glorious future as soon as it dissociated
itself from its own founders, and laughed at the Puritans, and even thought that
the founding fathers — that Jefferson and Washington lived under such different
conditions that they certainly could not at all help us in our emergency today.

They say, “Well, conditions have changed, therefore man must change.”
Gentlemen, conditions do change, because we are free agents. All men of the
past who deserve to be remembered have changed conditions or have met
changed conditions in the right fashion. But changing conditions are nothing
new in this world. They are the condition under which man can only express his
own sense of response, his own sense of appetite for living.

History is as short as the future you have. You can talk and talk about
millions of years in the past. If you do not feel you have plenty of time to enact
certain things which shall bear fruit a thousand years from now, I’m afraid you
are out of luck. This isn’t history which you then mention as having happened
900 years–900 million years, of course, I mean–before Christ. This is not history.
These are just unrelated facts. I cannot, even if I try, have any interest in facts of
900 million years ago as a rule for my own behavior. Make history short, and
you’ll have a future. Make history long, and the future will just be the one explo-
sion which is assigned to happen in some island around the Antarctic. The next
test with the fallout, and all this stuff which we have seen over the last year.

I’m afraid that the last year was not a very convincing year for the morale of
historians, or of people who have a history, and therefore have a future. I think the
change has already been sensed. People can’t carry on this feeling of living for the
moment. And I think that day by day we shall gain more certainty that it is worth
preparing the future of, let me say, the year 2100.

This, however, depends on your and my power, and your and my courage
to break up the frozen ice of this phrase, “from time immemorial,” with regard to

the past. Future and past are in equilibrium. That’s a very mysterious human
law. But it’s as safe to call it a law as the law of gravity. The future is not the
product from the past or the present. But it is that amount of faith which allows
us to select from the past those events which still guarantee us our future.

In other words, past and future are both alive. They are both created at
any one moment. There is no mere history. Historians have been called “prophets
turned backward.” But they are only good historians if they still are prophets.
And if what they s- — tell you and tell me, out of history, is meant to grow into
the future, that much they know of the future–those who are good
historians–that nothing which has been bought by real human investment of
heart and courage must vanish from this earth.

Well, I’m merely quoting the Gettysburg Address, and that would be
faulty, because I’m not going to try to betray you by emotions. I’m not going to
try to tell you something by which the blood pressure is enhanced. I’m trying to
tell you that to live by accident is just not good — a good way of living, and that
we live by accident as long as the past is blocked out by our complete devotion to
the moment of — as of today. That only when yesterday and tomorrow are
looked upon as a unity do you and I really live the full life at this moment.

And you will admit that the general atmosphere is averse to this. The
moment, the today, the present–they really think that this present moment, this
today stands between the past and the future. Nothing of the kind. There is only
a happy, a blessed, a potent present for anyone who first lives in the future — and
in the past as well, and is very glad to bring the two together, and to bind them
together. The bridge between the two shores of a river obviously comes after the
two shores demand our effort to intervene.

So my dear interventionists, we all intervene between the future and the
past, and we can only decide: which future? The future of — of accident, of
doom, of mere nature? Or the future which continues, that which already has
been created as a demand on you and me?

I’ve learned this the hard way, myself: the difference between today —
lived really, and today lived by accident. And perhaps I may tell the story to
make clear why a real history has to be told as different from accident.

It was in the First World War, on the French-German front, around the
city of Verdun. I was in charge of all the ammunition trains and all the transports
going up to the first lines, and the trenches. And I had to bring ammunition. And
our troop was under heavy fire.

When we moved forward, we lost several horses. We — at that time, we
weren’t yet motorized. It was in 1917, you must think–1916, I should say–and in
— this time, the men broke discipline. The panic seemed to become general, and I
had to court-martial a man on the spot, which I did. And we came out of it very
well in the end. The discipline was restored right away, and my men seemed
very satisfied with the way we had come out of this terrible situation, which a
panic in an army always is. Our losses were very moderate, and next day we
could march out again without any inkling of any such incident.

Two days later, after I had, so to speak, gone on record of being quite
cold-blooded, and what people would call “courageous,” I had a day off. By — I
don’t remember now how it came about. In a — what I did was, to make use of
my few hours, to crawl forward into the artillery line, and to have a look around
the fortress of Verdun, which lies deep on the Meuse River. And in German
hands, most of the {forth} at that time were, already. And in the midst of my
crawling there, a cannonade began, and I was struck down by a panic. I threw
down myself on the ground, totally. And I can tell you that for five minutes, I
must not — may not have lost consciousness, but I did not budge. I felt I couldn’t
move one limb.

I’ve asked myself very often how it happened that in the first place I was
without any fear, and knew to do the right thing, and that the second time, I had
absolutely nothing to offer as an excuse for my cowardly behavior.

The simple reason, if I come to think of it now, is that at the first action, I
was in charge of men. I was an officer. And an officer has great difficulties of
being a coward. His men look upon him as their leader. I think a private has
more reason to run away than any man who is leading other men. Their con-
fidence and their trust puts him in this historical role. They expect from him that
he brings about the future which is constituted in the war effort, in his com-
mand, in the name of his charge, of his commission, in the rank, in his uniform,
and in the whole prospect of this effort which keeps the men under his com-
mand–which we call “discipline,” “loyalty,” “faithfulness,” “patriotism,” what-not.

The second time, I was just the animal-man who had–without any good
reason, being curious–to look for himself. I was the naked self, outside my rela-
tion to the past and the future. I was the accident of the naked worm. And accid-
ent is not good for a man’s soul. He loses his soul. He has no soul, as a ma- —
matter of fact, as soon as he considers himsel- — and must himself consider as
accidentally there. I was there accidentally, arbitrarily. I shouldn’t have been
there. And therefore I was out of line with the great, meaningful effort by which
our actions bridge the past and the future, and tie them together.

And so — I think my own experience bears out my contention that you
must never allow the present become that accident which blocks the yearning of
the future for the fulfillment of the past, and the yearning of the past to grow
into the future.

The gist of history then is: this, which has to be told, lest you take every-
thing around you as existing from time immemorial. This, which does not exist
from time immemorial, fills the records of history. Now many things do exist
from time immemorial. Our flesh and blood, our muscles, our legs, our brains,
our eyes, our noses, obviously they are al- — old. There is nothing new about the
animal-man. So history only contains what once has been new. And it has to be
told so that you gain the impression that at one time it could not possibly have
existed. Or, to put it more bluntly, that at one time, it was thought as absolutely
impossible. History then is the story of those things which have to be told be-
cause at one time they appeared to be impossible. And we tell the story of things
that were so new that the old-timers and the young, who saw around them
something from time immemorial, would not admit that it can come to pass.

When we then speak out and tell the story, we do something to the men
around us. We break their dream-world of timeless, unhistorical, daily routine.
We break it, and we shock it. And so history is very different from any descrip-
tive story told about the behavior of a beaver, or the behavior of things in the
sky. When you talk of the men who live differently, and when you tell the man
who lives today that it was very difficult to make him live as he lives today, we
shock him of his com- — out of his complacency. We threaten him with the end of
his existence. Because obviously, if those brave people who introduce the new
life, and made him live as he does now, had not risked their skin, his whole
standard of living and his whole life would disappear rapidly, and he would
slink away into the state of nature out of which those people got him, whom he
has forgotten.

So history is told as a threat. There have been people who did not leave
the line of our own routines on this campus. And they changed our own educa-
tion. They forced upon us a change because — well, because they did not stop to
consider the consequences of their acts, of their demands. They lived the good
life, regardless of the cost, regardless of the consequences. To live regardless of
the consequences is one way obviously of making a good story which deserves
to be told. The people who always want ahead of time what comes of it, obvious-
ly are slaves of the past. Freedom cannot be achieved as long as you ask, “But
what will be the result?” Because the result mostly is very unpleasant. And cer-
tainly it is very uncertain. And anybody who wants to know ahead of time that
his bride will look beautiful when she is 70 is quite incapacitated to marry. She
won’t look beautifully — or as beautiful as she looks now. But perhaps she and

he may remain healthy. They can only hope for the best.

Freedom is action without regard to the consequences. Now gentlemen,
people today think that masses will produce a sound reaction, a response to
events, and the necessary things will be done, let’s say, in civilian defense, or in
air power, or what-not. I don’t believe that 10 hundred people who accom-
modate to the pressure of circumstance achieve anything of lasting memory. But
the one free man who does it without pressure, and before the pressure is on, he
changes the world. Think of {Homer Lee}. {Homer Lee}, who, according to
western standards, couldn’t become a soldier because he was a hunchback, and
— who described in great detail the attack of the Japanese on Pearl Harbor and
on the Philippines 20 years — 30 years ahead of time. He became a Chinese
general, because these people had not the prejudices we have about standards of
physical ability. {Homer Lee}, in his free and tremendous bravery, saved many
generals of this country the complete confusion which would have ensued if
nobody had thought out the attack long before it happened.

Similar, you may say that the Europeans now survive the First and Second
World War because of the great prediction of prophecy made by Nietzsche, who
left the academic and the complacent world of his time and said, “There must be
this tremendous collapse, this catastrophe,” just as Marx said it. And because
Nietzsche said it, besides Marx, we don’t have now to believe in the complete
victory of Marxism. If the Marxians had been the only ones to predict the great
clash of 1914, ’17, ’39, ’41 in our century, I’m afraid we might have the idea that
we were doomed, because the prophets would all be on the side of Communism.
Fortunately, we have on the side of anti-Communism as great and as free a
prophet. and therefore I do not believe that the future is one-sidedly with Rus-
sians, or Soviets, or Bolsheviks, at all. But the global constrictions, the global
compulsion which is on us today, the end of nationalism, all this was predicted
by this man Nietzsche, who has been qualified as a madman by all the people
who were inconvenienced by his free ideas.

So his name must be mentioned in order to get us into hope, into perspec-
tive, to say to us, “Well, since he saw it coming, and had the guts to foretell us,
we can follow his line, and we don’t have to believe in the final victory of the
party line in Moscow.”

But there is another thing why history has to be told. You live this won-
derful — life, day by day, here on this campus; seemingly no big change is to be
expected. History is rhythmical. It breaks up the history of a college, even, into
definite chapters. There is a college after the Revolution in this country; and
there is a college after the Civil War; and now there is a college after the two
world wars. And these are three epoch-making events.

So history is destroying the second myth of modern man, that time is
homogeneous, that–as in physics–one days is like the other. No. Time of man,
the time of history consists of tremendous epochs. In great moments, there is
condensed the resolution and the decision of man to enter a new day, or to end
an old day. We usually call them “wars.” There may be other events. In an — a
family, a wedding is such a catastrophical event. A catastrophe is nothing bad,
but it is tremendous. It is immense. It creates woe and wail. It is both: a wealth of
new events made possible by such a catastrophe, and a story of old family rou-
tines ended. Perhaps happily ended. So a wedding day is sublime, because you
cannot weigh what is better, or what is worse. It’s just different, completely dif-
ferent. A new chapter opens in the life of this family. That is, in the life of the
human race. And if you would celebrate more gaily the wedding feast, you
would also understand the march of history, its — in great rhythms, in cataracts.
That even the slumbering colleges get their changes into their bones.

Now there is one more thing why history has to be told. The rhythm,
obviously, would not be felt if not the chapter heading would give the beat to
you, the rhythm. You have to hear “Civil War,” and the “period after the Civil
War” to understand the liberal arts college, with their physics laboratories, their
biology courses, their cessation of hostilities with God Almighty in daily chapel,
et cetera.

Today we have military training, and we have all kind of wartime prepa-
rations. People take part in civilian defense, or in military defense in one way or
other. And again, it has to be said that the — United States of America have
gotten — involved into the global war. And I think if we would speak of “the
planet” and “the globe” more often than we speak of “the world,” the situation
would become clearer to us, why the indivisible unity of the human race now
has to be enforced in our colleges — much more purposively. It is not a luxury
now to insist that the Arabs and the Jews both must remain our friends. It’s a
very practical issue that we have to talk to the Zionists, and to talk to the Arabs
about the indivisible peace in the Near East, because whether it’s the Near East
or the Far East, whether it’s Europe or South America, the peace between men
has become indivisible. It wasn’t, before. You could have a nice war in Africa, or
you could have a nice war in Asia. And not only wouldn’t the newspaper not
report anything, we wouldn’t know that it happened; it wouldn’t — make no
dent elsewhere. And the — war of the United States of America against the Bay of
Tunis I think is totally forgotten today. It was just elsewhere, on a very dark
shore of the Mediterranean. We cannot say this now. There is no war which
doesn’t threaten the tissue, the texture, the fabric of all peace in all places.

On the planet and on the globe, the two world wars have made epoch,
because now we can no longer afford to speak of the world wars, but we must

begin to — think of a planetary peace. “World” is an old word, and we learn that
in the rhythm of mankind’s life, the terms change. There have been wars of
revolution, there have been wars of liberation, there have been religious wars.
Now we get world war. And just as the national wars of the 19th century were
all followed by a liberal era of free enterprise within a nation–high tariffs, inte-
gration of history teaching in any school of the land in the traditions of this one
country–so now with the world war, we suddenly have great interest, practical
interest in understanding the march of life on the whole planet, on the globe, in
order to find our place inside this one great society, or this one great nucleus into
which we have been led through the new inventions of science. We are either
part of the whole nucleus of mankind, or this race will explode and annihilate
itself. Nuclear physics are only a metaphor. It isn’t the atom that — whose explo-
sion makes us shudder. The human race has become indivisible. The human race
has become one molecule. And if it is not allowed to stay together, every particle
of it must be destroyed.

Now you understand that my story of Roscoe Pound, and my criticism of
your unconscious life on this campus is really one and the same thing. He could
not see the connection of an epoch-making event with the boring process of
teaching people the A, B, C, and the three R. And you cannot see that at one day,
one — there was introduced into the life of the community the necessity for
teaching you what the liberal arts college tries to teach you.

Now you’ll say, “Oh, still, history. Just too much of it. 1066 and All That.
We can’t stand it. After all, there are thousands of years, hundreds of countries,
battles, kings, inventions, defeats. It’s a nasty story. Most things are not very alluring
in history: assassinations, conspiracies, defeats, famines, floods. Why should we learn
all these things? What do you call an epochal event? We are overwhelmed by history.
Then we have to split history.”

Ah, let me answer immediately. I’m speaking of history. History must be
told. I’m not speaking just of histories. In as far as there are so many countries,
and — so many lands, and many continents, perhaps this history has not to be
told. But history, as you will have to experience, and as you will have to try to
teach the next generation at least, if you haven’t learned it yourself, history is
highly selective. You see, history is so selective because it only has to mention the
impossible. That which has become possible after it has appeared to be impossi-
ble. History does not mean that we must now reprint every document ever writ-
ten. It would be as stupid as if you would have to record every word you ever
said. In a way, our modern ways of having archives, and of having big maga-
zines of — and libraries–storehouses of the past–has led the layman to believe
that history is just the knowledge of everything that has been. Now, I would side
with you: let’s destroy all the mere storehouses of the past, because they would

be a burden on my memory, as on yours. Memory is a promise. Memory holds
out only promises for me. And I try to store in my memory only those things that
are yet unfulfilled. Now any event which belongs into history gives us tremen-
dous courage, because it tells us that new things have been created. And those
new things which once seemed impossible, you and I have to guarantee, to
warrant, to vouchsafe for in the future.

So in history, we learn which events, which deeds, which accomplish-
ments must not be forgotten. They are our program for the future in the first
place. This is the comfort for the selective historian. The historian has not to
know everything, except perhaps for the purpose of discarding those things
which his readers need not know. He is the sift — the percolator, the selector.
And when he acts as an historian–and all great historians have done this–he will
omit those things which might happen at any time. History only contains those
elements which could only happen at one time, and at no other. And any such
step, which is limited to one time really, strangely enough is fecund, is fruitful, is
of infinite importance for the rest of all times.

And the last thing, only those things that are selected as free acts in
rhythmical, epoch-making events, only those can be articulated persuasively,
and eloquently. Only those things deserve our love. They are the things of which
William {Harnay} has said, “Love has ripened into speech. Where we do not
love, let’s be silent.” But those events which have made our present-day college,
our present-day country, they must be told.