On this December 21, 2012, did our World’s, our America’s Heart of Darkness really stop? Is this really the way the world ends? Neither with a bang nor even a whimper? Has the old order really been burnt and snuffed out like the straw effigy of Guy Fawkes on Bonfire Night? What if the world really DID end and nobody cared? Are we all just stuffed and masked images of dead white male revolutionaries now? Two years ago I arrived in New Orleans with my son Charlie from his first Semester in College at Saint John’s in Annapolis—and now without rhyme or reason he never calls me, writes me, nor even sends smoke signals—and yes, that does make me feel really rather Hollow….. I grow old, I grow old, but I shall never wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled…. But is anything really real in this night after the world ended? Today was the day, wasn’t it?
The Hollow Men
T. S. Eliot (1925)
Mistah Kurtz—he dead. A penny for the Old Guy I We are the hollow men We are the stuffed men Leaning together Headpiece filled with straw. Alas! Our dried voices, when We whisper together Are quiet and meaningless As wind in dry grass Or rats’ feet over broken glass In our dry cellar Shape without form, shade without colour, Paralysed force, gesture without motion; Those who have crossed With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom Remember us—if at all—not as lost Violent souls, but only As the hollow men The stuffed men. II Eyes I dare not meet in dreams In death’s dream kingdom These do not appear: There, the eyes are Sunlight on a broken column There, is a tree swinging And voices are In the wind’s singing More distant and more solemn Than a fading star. Let me be no nearer In death’s dream kingdom Let me also wear Such deliberate disguises Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves In a field Behaving as the wind behaves No nearer— Not that final meeting In the twilight kingdom III This is the dead land This is cactus land Here the stone images Are raised, here they receive The supplication of a dead man’s hand Under the twinkle of a fading star. Is it like this In death’s other kingdom Waking alone At the hour when we are Trembling with tenderness Lips that would kiss Form prayers to broken stone. IV The eyes are not here There are no eyes here In this valley of dying stars In this hollow valley This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms In this last of meeting places We grope together And avoid speech Gathered on this beach of the tumid river Sightless, unless The eyes reappear As the perpetual star Multifoliate rose Of death’s twilight kingdom The hope only Of empty men. V Here we go round the prickly pear Prickly pear prickly pear Here we go round the prickly pear At five o’clock in the morning. Between the idea And the reality Between the motion And the act Falls the Shadow For Thine is the Kingdom Between the conception And the creation Between the emotion And the response Falls the Shadow Life is very long Between the desire And the spasm Between the potency And the existence Between the essence And the descent Falls the Shadow For Thine is the Kingdom For Thine is Life is For Thine is the This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper.
1925 was a great year. T.S. Eliot published the poem reproduced above. In other events that year, on January 3, 1925 (my wonderful Grandfather’s, Alphonse Bernhard Meyer’s, 27th Birthday), Benito Mussolini asserted dictatorial powers in Italy. On July 18 of that year, the future Austrian Chancellor of Germany finished and published his autobiography entitled “My Struggle”, and on the date that, 35 years later, would later become my birthday, F. Scott Fitzgerald published “The Great Gatsby.”
On February 21, 1925, the New Yorker Magazine went into publication for the first time, introducing Eustace Tilley and his Monocle to the World.
One month later, as a direct result of this first publication (and the fact that Eustace Tilley was examining a Butterfly—just as an evolutionary biologist would), on March 21, 1925, the State of Tennessee outlawed the teaching of evolution and immediately “went ape”, immediately proceeding to arrest (on May 5, 1925, 42 years later to become my wife and son’s mother Elena K.’s birthday) indict and prosecute one certain Mr. John Scopes for violating this law in the magnet schools of Metropolitan Dayton, Tennessee. On July 21, 1925, a mere three days after the publication in Germany of “My Struggle,” John Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution in his native Dayton and fined $100.00, despite representation by Chicago Attorney Clarence Darrow. Scopes appealed but later dropped his appeal after a settlement.
In other miscellaneous news, on April 3, the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Africa all went back on the gold standard (that didn’t last too long, though…) and on June 1, 1925, Percy and Florence Arrowsmith were married in Hereford, England. This couple, who celebrated their 80th wedding anniversary June 1, 2005 (Percy aged 105, and wife Florence 100), were (apparently erroneously) acknowledged by the Guinness Book of Records as record-holders for the longest marriage for a living couple and the greatest aggregate age of a married couple. Percy only survived a fortnight after their anniversary, dying on June 15, 2005. There’s a French couple that may have been married longer but 80 years is still a really long time….
Two fortnights after the Arrowsmiths were married, a major earthquake struck the beautiful city of Santa Barbara, California, leveling the entire downtown on June 29, 1925. FEMA did not then exist, so Santa Barbara recovered rapidly.
Back on the Western shores of the Atlantic, the second (1915 renascent) Ku Klux Klan demonstrated and held a parade in Washington DC including 40,000 male and female members of the Klan marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in front of “Silent” Calvin Coolidge’s White House. In 1925, an estimated 5,000,000 members belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, making it the largest fraternal and social organization in the United States.
During 1925, several important events in the development of Television took place in the U.S. England, including on June 13, Charles Francis Jenkins achieves the first synchronized transmission of pictures and sound, using 48 lines, and a mechanical system. A 10-minute film of a miniature windmill in motion was transmitted 5 miles by “radio” from Anacostia to Washington, DC. The images are viewed by representatives of the National Bureau of Standards, the U.S. Navy, the Commerce Department, and others. Jenkins called this “the first public demonstration of radiovision”. In Great Britain, between March 25, and October 30, 1925, Scottish engineer John Logie Baird’s developed and put into service Britain’s first television transmitters at Selfridge’s Department store in Soho.
Finally, on Christmas Day, 1925, for whatever it might be worth to note, IG Farben was formed out of the consolidation, conglomeration, and merger of BASF, Bayer, Agfa, Hoechst, and two other companies.