Culture | Philosophy | Travel

The World As We Know It

“… and anyhow travel is over, like one’s books and the rest of civilization” – Rose Macaulay

This Macaulay quote, plucked from the extraordinary Erik Larson book The Splendid and the Vile, was from a letter that she wrote to a friend after her London flat was destroyed in 1941 during one of the many attacks the city suffered, wiping out all of her books and personal belongings accumulated over her lifetime to that point. I found this particular quote profound because in many ways I feel that way about 2020, when the idea of travel and any semblance of civilized discourse seems illusive at best. It shines as a reminder that others have been in far worse places than we’re in now, and this too shall pass. The war eventually ended and some level of civilization returned. Macaulay went on to travel extensively, writing some best sellers along the way.

Of course, I can’t just read a quote like that and not look into the source, and Macaulay doesn’t disappoint. I’ve added her to the list of authors I need to invest more time with once the stack of books has reached a respectable level of completion. For now, here are a couple of quotes from Dame Rose Macaulay that particularly resonated for me:

“It wasn’t really touching to be young; it was touching not to be young, because you had less of life left. Touching to be thirty; more touching to be forty; tragic to be fifty; and heartbreaking to be sixty. As to seventy, as to eighty, one would feel as one did during the last dance of a ball, tired but fey in the paling dawn, desperately making the most of each bar of music before one went home to bed.” – Rose Macaulay, Dangerous Ages

Life, for all its agonies…is exciting and beautiful, amusing and artful and endearing…and whatever is to come after it — we shall not have this life again.” – Rose Macaulay

I suppose the takeaway from each of the three quotes is familiar ground for readers of this blog. The world as we know it will continue to change, and so must we. Savor the dance to the last note. Savor youth while you have it and the moments always. And in the darkest days, remind yourself that the world will be there for you when you’re ready or able to venture out into it once again.

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