It happened in history's depth
"But I have a sort of world-picture. This too is called a life philosophy, as is almost anything between serious men. Women are less inclined to be solemn about everything. My world-picture can be likened to a small [p. 249] nebula, and what you see is an unverifiable something. And therefore I wish to say that when I use absolute expressions in the following, like know and believe, then I do so only for brevity's sake and it is not important to me to make others believe. I am trying to find my own way, not to make converts. If I should ever have any disciples they would have a tough time.
"What I know is that something incomprehensible took place far back in the depth of history, but that its date might after all be determined. Not in terms of days and years, like the battle of Poltava, or the discovery of America; for example, imagine the twenty-third of February the year two million four hundred thousand three hundred and ninety B.C. Have you considered how our time reckoning floats on the surface, and how impossible it is to get it, or any other reckoning now in use, accepted internationally? Here at last is a task for what we in our wish-dreams have named the United Nations. We can never obtain a time-reckoning which includes the unfathomable eons that have passed, but at least we can obtain one that has meaning to all; one that isn't tied to national or religious happenings that mark our lack of the conception that time existed before ours. We might count back ten thousand years and call that point Zero.
"Somewhere back in the midst of time, and beyond our ability of comprehension, something happened which unfortunately never can be used as a basis for our time-reckoning. What was it? Perhaps that 'man' became human and spread over the globe from his original home. Perhaps that he arrived from another planet, with which he lost contact; which happened, indeed, quite suddenly. Perhaps it could be established in time, but only through a different conception of time—the way people used to say God in the beginning created heaven and earth, before anything else existed. I have pondered much over what it was that happened to human beings, what struck them—surely an impulse to do something else, an impulse that started them to move with ever increasing speed toward a final goal, now not far away, and that final goal is Ragnarok. And sometime again, long after this new Ragnarok, everything will begin from the beginning anew.
"What happened that first time was unbelievable, and since then only once has the unbelievable struck all of humanity at one time: the universal and paralyzing fear of the world's destruction, and a growing belief, approaching knowledge, that Ragnarok is close at hand. Because now people have lost control of their destiny. In many instances, and under the most varying forms, they have relinquished their will and right to act in unison. They have lost their courage, but kept their [p. 250] aggressiveness, and put the blame on others, on those across the ocean, who are to be blamed for everything, and may Heaven consume them with fire! Or else they say: We are helpless, we have no voice in these matters.
"We have both sold ourselves and wedded ourselves to destruction—in order that we may, during the short moment allowed us, have a piece of bread while being brainwashed in front of the hypnotic television. No one has ever predicted the truth of what will happen when war breaks out, least of all the military experts. Only one fact holds true today, and that is that no great power wants war within its own borders. If I were asked 'Is there no hope for Europe?' I would still reply 'yes.' The race between the two great powers might have another goal than the one we are told. The goal might be simply that neither one of them wishes to be the weaker the day they have to meet and divide the earth between them.
"But I fear something else, I fear Europe will become the firebreak, I fear that in places where no bombs have fallen the birds may drop dead and children sink down on the roads, while the great silence spreads and our soldiers lie dead around their atom-artillery, no longer with eyes to see it all, see that our world for a moment is still there as before, but without bird-song, and without verdure in the fields, and with no one to plague his neighbor who isn't there either. It won't even leave a smell, for bacteria too will be exterminated. It will be the myth of the tower of Babel returning again. We must die, just when we aimed to be like God and travel into space. And now we arrive at what could be called my third, or fourth, life philosophy: there is much to indicate all this has happened before, and I can imagine people again, perhaps a hundred thousand years from now, spreading out over the globe from a place they later will call their original home, spreading out over the earth from one place where life has survived, and God knows what myths they will drag along with them. Could they be very different from the ones we now have—Cain and Abel, Sodom and Gomorrha, fire from heaven, a phosphorous hell with Satan, a dream of peace in Abraham's bosom, Nirvana, murderous war-gods, portents in sun and moon, wars and stories of wars, castration, the holy phallic worship, the eating of the sacrificial ram, bloody sacrifices to a creator by his own descendants, the world's destruction, doomsday, son-sacrifice, fear and salvation—from whence do we have all memories and myths of such craziness, if all such craziness hadn't once taken place? What we call predictions and prophesying—are they not all remembrances?[p. 251]
"And some time, far in the future, people will arrive at their great well-being again, with television sets, good times with anxiety, and the hope like today's that people will be slaughtered only in other places than their own, in another Hungary, another Korea, another Algeria, another Indo-China—and that the righteous will be set against the unrighteous whom they know possibly less about than about themselves, and finally a new Billy Graham and his decisive battle with the last sensible human beings at Armageddon.
"Once, in the depths of time, people left nature. For a long time they went on walking alongside nature like a scared phalanx, but the phalanx grew more and more threatening as the years grew into hundreds of thousands. People continuously made more daring attacks upon nature until its position weakened, and by that time only a few thousand years remained before the next doomsday when nature would take back all hers.
"Someone has said nature was unable to invent the wheel; it was something Man made outside of nature. One forgets the solar system which is the wheel and the wheels.
"Even the survivors of a coming Ragnarok will preserve the memory of the wheel. They will begin with the sign of the sun, as people have done so many times before, long, long ago. And they will continue with wheels as in the past, with wheel-filled clocks on the walls, with wagons and bicycles, and again they will, in the sign of the wheel, evolve to destroy the wheel. Our right time-reckoning should be one from suicide to suicide."
Copyright © 1958 by H. Aschehoug & Co., Oslo, Norway. Used by permission. English translation copyright © 1966 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved. Use of this material falling outside the purview of "fair use" requires the permission of the University of Wisconsin Press.
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