Tuesday, August 01, 2017

A European Requiem


An earlier post quoting Muhammad Asad (aka Leopold Weiss) on the danger of avoiding dangers reached a very wide audience. So now I am posting the complete passage from The Road to Mecca which contains the quote. It was written in the early 1950s, but is so relevant to recent events both in and outside the Albert Hall. The photo was taken by me outside the Musée Mohammed VI d'Art Moderne et Contemporain, in Rabat, Morocco.
When a European travels in any country of Europe which he has never seen before, he continues to move within his own, though perhaps somewhat widened, environment and can easily grasp the difference between the things that habit has made familiar to him and the newness that now comes his way. For, whether we are Germans or Englishmen, and whether we travel through France, Italy of Hungary, the spirit of Europe unifies us all.

Living as we do within a well-defined orbit of associations, we are able to understand one another and to make ourselves understood through those associations as if through a common language. We call this phenomenon 'community of culture'. Its existence is undoubtedly an advantage; but like all advantages that stem from habit, this one is occasionally a disadvantage as well: for sometimes we find that we are wrapped up in that universal spirit as if in cotton wool; that we are lulled into a laziness of heart; that it has made us forget the tightrope-walk of our earlier more creative times - that reaching out after intangible realities.

In those earlier times they would perhaps have been called 'intangible possibilities', and the men who went out in search of them - whether discoverers or adventurers or creative artists - were always seeking only the innermost springs of their own lives. We late-comers are also seeking our own lives - but we are obsessed by the desire to secure own own life before it unfolds itself. And we dimly suspect the sin that lies hidden in such endeavour. Many Europeans begin to feel it today; the terrible danger of avoiding dangers.
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