Devoid of Permanence and the Feeling of Security

[Letter excerpt, January 7, 1941]

Meanwhile, we move on this strange stage for yet a little while. Everything here seems too bright, too sunny, the the air too swimmingly clear, the sky too still and lambent, the hills too blue, the snow too white, the oranges sweet and gaudy to the point of bad taste. It is all rather like the opening scene of some romantic old world opera; a dazzle of light and color, as brilliant and unreal as an Easter peep-show. Imagine cultivating a sedate, Gothic spirit in such a setting! One would rather look for a gay chorus of youths and maidens in tight bodices and scarlet sashes than a drove of scholarly sheep in academic gowns.

The Students themselves see the point: they not uncommonly go barefoot,  and dress with a gay conventionality. But what a conventionality! With Italian confession of color we seem to be taking on an Italian timidity and complacency: with a good deal of humbug we have lost a good deal of strength. It is all very well to discard the penguin-like dignity of an earlier time, but that droll buffoonery is not half so comically pathetic as the incurable frivolity and mindless superficiality of the present.

With things as they are, devoid of permanence and the feeling of security, ______ has been wise to lay a broad and general foundation, refusing, even at a risk, to specialize before the right time, yielding the high vantage point from which he views the world. Once you go down to work in the fields you lose that power to survey the whole scene and move when the time comes in any direction; you sacrifice that breadth of view and freedom of action which is essential, I suspect, to doing the most good, or perhaps even for survival itself, in our world. With which cosmic reflection our philosophic vaporings have reached such a low pressure as to have lost all consequences. Forgive their futility. Until we join Tarrington’s Light Horse what other sort of thing can we talk about?

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About Hugh Nibley

Hugh Nibley, 1910-2005, was simultaneously the LDS Church's greatest intellectual defender from attack from the outside and Mormon culture's strongest critic from the inside. This blog is composed mainly from Nibley's unpublished writings, letters, interviews and conversations, with occasional posts from associates who had personal interactions with him.
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