Will Durant: The stars, who am I?

In the summer of 1913, on the Hudson River, a 28-year-old young man was paddling forward with difficulty in a canoe. The storm was raging, he could not take a step forward, and the boat might capsize at any time. A few days ago, he was in another relationship and said that he needed a week to think about whether to continue the relationship. He loves her, but he wants to be a philosopher, and philosophers don’t marry. These days, he rides 250 kilometers from New York to Albany, and then paddles back from Albany, numbing his worries with exhaustion. Love and ambition are fighting for his heart…

God’s kingdom

Will Durant was born on November 5, 1885, into a poor and devout working-class Catholic family in Massachusetts, and the family later moved to Carney and Arlington, New Jersey. His mother often prayed to God, not for a comfortable life, but only for one of her sons to be a priest. When Will was 5 years old, he often listened to his mother’s Bible stories. He liked Jesus the most. When he heard the name, his eyes lit up, and his mother was overjoyed, thinking that his prayers were finally answered.

Will worships heroes since he was a child. He doesn’t really care about the divinity of Christ. He likes Jesus because he rebels against the world alone and has the courage to sacrifice for the truth. Therefore, the shock of God’s divinity did not make him an honest child. Rather than going to school and going to church, he prefers to play marbles or fight with classmates. In one class, the teacher had to tie him to a chair, but he stood up and walked around the classroom with the chair still glued to his butt. At the age of 11, because he lost playing marbles, he had a duel with a classmate and was almost beaten to death.

When he hit puberty at age 12, love and literature turned Will into an introvert and revived his faith. Will fell in love with Erin, the top student in his class. He accompanied her home every day and gave her a basket of strawberries he picked himself. Erin lent him Dickens’ Pickwick Papers. Will took it home and read until 1am despite his family’s objections. After reading, he asked Erin if she had any other books, and Erin said that Dad had promised to give her “David Copperfield” as a Christmas present—Christmas was still a few months away, and Will couldn’t wait. He saved 14 cents, walked 5 kilometers, and bought an 860-page copy of David Copperfield. He fell in love with literature and forgot about Erin. Later, Erin became a nun – she was always Will’s holy idol.

Mooney, a new priest at Carney Church, likes Will’s sensitivity and studiousness, and at Will’s mother’s request, he devotes himself to cultivating him as a pillar of the church. At the age of 15, Will entered St. Peter’s College in Jersey City under Mooney’s arrangement and help. Since then, he has become the pride of his hometown parents, and everyone believes that he will become a Jesuit monk.

St. Peter’s College served as both high school and college, where Will attended until he was 22, studying Latin, Greek, French, and more. This period was the foundational period of his life. A surviving book of reading notes shows that he read 1909 books in about two years, and he read 48 books in 42 days, all of which are tomes like The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. From the age of 19, he made up his mind to write a series of literati biographies: “I want to finish reading the writings of these first saints, then join them and become immortal in words.”

At this point, Darwin’s theory of evolution shook his faith again. He borrowed “Origin of Species” from the city library, looked at the catalog and felt boring, and was about to return it, and happened to meet Father Mooney. Mooney told him it was banned by the Holy See and was harmful to the faith. Instead of going to pay it back, Will tried halfway through, then he read Man Origins and Spencer. For a time, he was both an atheist and a socialist.

After graduating from St. Peter’s College, Will was hesitant about going to seminary. He interned at a newspaper office for a while. At that time, the media had just entered the era of yellow journalism, and newspapers abandoned the seriousness of the past and began to report all kinds of shocking and boring events with headlines to attract people’s attention. Within four weeks, Will reported on four rapes and murders, disgusted, and after a year of deliberation, decided to enroll in the seminary at Seton Hall University, where he would be trained as a Jesuit. Faith has its roots in psychological needs, so evolution doesn’t outlaw Will’s religion. Darwin went out; Spinoza entered.

Will, a seminary librarian, discovered Spinoza’s Ethics in a small pile of books. A pagan book would be in a seminary – like a serpent in the Garden of Eden. Spinoza denies that man has free will: if he is right, it is absurd that man should be rewarded by God for his good deeds. Since you don’t even know your own thoughts, how can you talk about good and evil?

What struck Will even more was Spinoza’s personality. Spinoza also had doubts about religion in his youth, but he did not hide anything, but boldly spoke his thoughts and was rejected by all his relatives and friends. He explained that “freedom means wanting nothing but himself”: friends gave him an inheritance, he refused; the king gave him a salary, he refused; Heidelberg University gave him a professorship, he refused – he will live a life of loyalty to his heart. He shook the throne of God, and princes and nobles shuddered before him. Faced with such a person, Will is ashamed of his cowardice.

After a year and a half, he dropped out of seminary and started serving as a teacher at a public elementary school in Newark. To fill his stomach, he also lectured on Spencer’s philosophy at the Newark Social Science Club. Fame spread to New York City, and the Feller Center invited him to speak on “The Origins of Religion.” For the five-dollar remuneration, Will focused on the role of sexuality in the origins of religion, holding on to the belief that the language is not surprising. The audience, who were radical anarchists, were very pleased with this statement. However, the content of the speech reached the church, and the Bishop of Newark punished Will in the Evening News: No Catholics are allowed to associate with him, “Judged by angels and judged by saints, we curse William James Durant. Curse him during the day, curse him at night; curse when he lies down, curse when he stands, curse when he goes out to the bathroom, and curse when he comes back.” The priest at the church in Arlington scolded Will’s mother, who came home emotionally disturbed and nearly died; the father kicked Will out of the house. In the eyes of these poor people, if a person is not a religious person, he must be an alcoholic or a hooligan.

The wavering man is ultimately cast out of God’s kingdom. Now he was really Spinoza.

paradise on earth

In 1912, as Will was desperate, the anarchists at the Feller Center were experimenting with education. They run modern schools with the concept of “three noes” (no discipline, no exams, and no transcripts). They were so impressed by Will’s learning that he was hired to be the school’s principal and sole teacher, educating a dozen children in a liberal manner. In the morning, they study “everything under the sun” in the classroom. Will has a biography habit. When teaching geography, he does not talk about the mountains and plains, but the adventures of Columbus; in the theory of evolution, he does not explain natural selection, but the life of Darwin. He was amazed that the children had the same love for the hero as he did, and if he ended a story, the children would protest or ask him to tell another. In the afternoon they went to the park and sat on the grass to study. People hanging out in the park will also sit and listen. Every time he went to school and after school, some children hugged his neck, some hugged his thighs, some pulled his arms, and even the parents were very jealous. Later, this habit of telling stories runs through his works: “The Story of Philosophy”, “The History of World Civilization”, “The History of Heroes”…

After teaching for half a year, he traveled to Europe under the sponsorship of the nobleman Alden Freeman, and was taught by Miss Cora Stevenson. One afternoon, Cora and her children were teaching on the grass in Central Park. Ada, a 14-year-old Jewish girl who skipped class from a public school, sat on a bench not far away and sighed. Ada loves to read and hates class very much. She heard the laughter and laughter from the grass, and she slowly approached the children with some flinch and asked what they were doing. Cora said they were in class. The next day, Ada transferred to the modern school and became the oldest child there.

In September, Will, who had been merciful in Europe, returned and found that there was more Ada in the class. She was always disruptive and disrupted classroom discipline. Ada didn’t like Will. He was not tall, only 1.65 meters, with a lot of rashes on his face, and he was always shy and nervous. She took the lead in laughing at Will when he tried to lecture.

It didn’t take long, however, for the magic of love to work. Ada discovers that Will is completely different from the man she’s seen in the slums, that he’s gentle and poetic – she’s in love with Will. She became quiet, and the teacher always helped her with anything she needed; when she was playing games in the yard, she wanted to hug him, and Will criticized her. After thinking for a long time, she wrote a love letter to express her love.

Will also likes Ada, who is so bubbly and active, and when she’s with her, the breath of life hits you. But Will thinks the 13-year age gap is a problem, and he’s been thinking of celibacy before because he has a history book in his stomach and doesn’t know if he’ll have time to enjoy family life. Will wrote back that he was moved, but given the fickleness of adolescence, he suggested the two would have to wait four months before deciding whether to fall in love.

But two weeks later they were together and kissed me. After a week of hesitation on the Hudson River, Will felt that the question of “my suitability for marriage” was not something that could be solved by thinking, and then let go of love. He wrote a letter to the leaders of the Feller Center to resign, first because of the teacher’s moral sense, and second because being the king of children for a long time would not help his ideals.

After half a year, the two got married. On Halloween, Ada, with roller skates in one hand and a book in the other (she eventually has to choose between the two), goes to town hall with Will to register their marriage. Out of town hall, they hug each other, and Will reads Whitman’s “Song of the Road”: “Will we be loyal to each other until the end of our lives?” Ida smiled. From there, Ada got Will’s “Ariel” — the nickname Will gave her after the elf who made waves in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Four years after their marriage, Will was funded by Freeman and followed Dewey to study a Ph.D. at Columbia University, and Ariel also took classes with him. To support his family and save enough money to fulfill his plans to write a history, at age 28, Will taught philosophy, art history and science at night and summer camps in the eastern and midwestern United States. The peasants and workers in the audience had only elementary school level, and had never even heard the name of Socrates. He blinked hard when he explained it a little bit. Will had to avoid jargon and explain the obscure propositions clearly with various examples. This was a crucial exercise in his formation of the style of language in The Tales of Philosophy.

One Sunday afternoon in 1922, a young man named Emmanuel Holdman-Julius came across Will’s lecture on Plato, and asked Will to organize the speech for publication as Little Blue Book No. 159. The “Little Blue Book” is a pamphlet issued by Emanuel that fits in the back pocket of jeans and aims to educate workers and farmers. After Will agreed, he wrote a total of 11 articles, including Aristotle and Bacon. Emanuel proposed that the 11 articles be published in a book, published by Simon & Schuster. In 1926, “The Story of Philosophy” was born, and Simon & Schuster quickly developed into one of the four major English-language publishing houses in the world.

The Story of Philosophy, a history of philosophy disguised as a biography, topped the bestseller list upon release, and Weir has since become an internationally acclaimed author. “The Story of Philosophy” was introduced into China in 1929, and there are currently at least six Chinese translations. According to statistics from the New York Public Library, the circulation of philosophy books in the library has increased sevenfold since the book was published. Each of the 11 chapters in the book is very exciting, and the two chapters of the “Two Sis” (Spinoza and Spencer) are particularly important, which are the “sesame seeds” that open the door to Weir’s philosophy and politics.

Ariel was 21 and Will was 34 when their daughters, Ethel, were born. Ariel nearly died due to dystocia due to overnutrition during her pregnancy. Will’s family life since marriage has been very happy. At age 33, he was driving Ariel back to Arlington in his new convertible, and his parents immediately forgave him. He has a strong relationship with Ariel, and although he goes out to teach, he must write a letter every day. In order to relieve loneliness, Ariel put her children to bed every night, read until two or three in the morning, and later opened a salon restaurant in the newly emerging Greenwich Village to entertain artists. However, time is not the way to go, and suspicions and suspicions are bred. Ariel doubts Will’s long-term loyalty while away, and Will broods over Ariel’s loan of thousands of dollars to painters who never pay it back. Their conflict reached its peak in 1929, and even thought of divorce at one point. Fortunately, Will is gentle and Ariel is sensible. The two always communicate openly and honestly. Fortunately, in this year, Will’s funds have finally been saved, the “civilization factory” has started, and the roar of the machine is overwhelmed. The quarrel between husband and wife was ended-Will compressed the time to teach abroad, began to write “The History of World Civilization”, and the marriage was saved.

historical starry sky

Will considers himself to be writing history as a philosopher, and in his eyes, history is “philosophy of examples”. Will wanted to be the first to write “The Complete History.” As early as a student at Columbia University, he explained the “complete history” in class. He painted a scene for his classmates: Pericles went to the theatre with his mistress Aspasia and friend Socrates. This involves politics, philosophy, economics, customs (gender relations), art, architecture (the construction of the stage), and so on. In the past, historians only focused on politics and economics, but Will wanted to write a whole history of politics, history, philosophy, literature and art, and social customs. Both Eastern and Western historians like to describe the wars and political rivalries of heroes, and in Will, theoretical geniuses (philosophers and artists) rank higher than practical geniuses (politicians and military strategists). It was a revival of ancient literati pride, as Horace put it: there were also great generals before Agamemnon, but they had no Homer. What is immortal is not the performance of the emperor, but the brushstrokes of the poet.

Will’s original plan for writing was five parts: Asia, Ancient Greece and Rome, Medieval and Renaissance, Reformation, French Revolution to Modern. A friend, Adolf Krocher, advised him to write only one volume, since no one would pay for anything in five volumes. Will felt he had a point, so he wrote 11 volumes, each thicker than Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Readers who swore to buy only one roll soon found themselves in the position of Chekhov’s pancakes: “The breaded pancakes are so delicious, you pick up one and eat it, who knows what happened, the second. It will automatically get into your mouth.”

It is not difficult to imagine that the second half of Will’s life was bland and boring, and he devoted almost all of his time to historical writing.

Ages 45-50: “The Legacy of the East”; Ages 50-55: “Life in Greece”; Ages 55-60: “Caesar and Christ”; Ages 60-65: “The Age of Faith”; Age 65 – 68 years old: “Renaissance”; 68 years old – 72 years old: “Reformation”; 72 years old – 80 years old: The Age of Reason Trilogy (“The Age of Reason”, “The Age of Louis XIV”, “The Age of Voltaire”) ; 80 years old – 82 years old: “Rousseau and the Revolution”; 85 years old – 90 years old: “The Age of Napoleon”. The original plan of “the world after Napoleon” was ultimately not completed.

The Legacy of the Orient was the most preparatory work, because the Orient—especially the Far East, including China and Japan—was not within Will’s previous knowledge. So, on January 11, 1930, he took Ariel and his daughter on a round-the-world trip. Arrived in China on March 11 and toured Shanghai accompanied by Hu Shi. He commented that the Chinese are the most secular people, they worship hundreds of gods, but they are still atheists at heart. They are not deterred by God, but they can rely on the teachings of Confucius to maintain ethics and morality. He predicts that China will soon be the only country able to compete with the United States.

After returning to China, he immediately devoted himself to the writing of “The Legacy of the East”. The writing process of the 11 volumes is as follows: first read, take notes on the slips of paper, each volume can use up to 3000 slips of paper. Then there is the classification. This was the most labor-intensive work. Will wrote the outline, the headings and subheadings of each chapter, and sorted through the piles of paper. This work was done by himself at first, and then started to be done by Ariel and the secretary. The third step is to write the first draft at home, because reference materials can be easily obtained at home, and the large table in the study is covered with dictionaries, reference books, sorted pieces of paper and peanuts with shells. Step 4, travel to the destination, take the first draft with you, write the second draft – rewrite the entire first draft, paragraph by paragraph, to add style and rhetoric, the work place is train, car, plane , steamship… and then the third draft, which was typed out. Finally handed over to the publisher, proofreading, and inserting pictures from the trip.

The Legacy of the East is the sole responsibility of Will. Once when he was sorting papers on a train, a curious flight attendant saw the contents of Japanese philosophy from behind and asked, “Have you read Durant’s Tales of Philosophy?” “No,” Wei said. “But I did.” The flight attendant walked away quickly, telling colleagues that Durant was an academic monster sitting with a piece of paper.

Legacy of the Orient is an eye-opening must-read. The customs and ethics of primitive tribes are different, and readers have to reflect on their old concepts: such as female chastity (some tribes in the Philippines are very disgusted with virgins, the groom hires someone to snatch the bride’s virginity for him on the wedding day), male loyalty (in equatorial Africa, if a man refuses to beg a concubine, his wife will call him a cheapskate), aesthetics (in Nigeria, the perfect woman is a woman who is too fat to walk on a camel), and many more.

“Life in Greece” and “Caesar and Christ” were praised by Nobel laureate Maeterlinck, who said Will seemed to have lived in those times. The legends of those heroes are interesting, but the most interesting is the customs of the time, such as Popaea, the lover of Emperor Nero, who discovered that donkey milk can nourish her face. “Wherever she traveled, a donkey followed, and sometimes she rushed with a large herd of donkeys.”

During the writing of “Age of Faith,” the most violent quarrel of the Durants’ lives occurred. Ariel wanted to move back to New York (they were based in Los Angeles at the time) because of the lively Greenwich Village there. Will couldn’t figure out how making friends could be so appealing. However, this does not mean that their relationship has a rift, on the contrary, the more they go on, the deeper their relationship. If Will is at home, then he must wait for Ariel to sleep with him; if he is away, he will order flowers to be delivered to Ariel every day, often with the letter “You must hear your voice every day, or life will not end.” Meaning” “I love you 100 times deeper than when I got married” “I finally believe that marriage can be happy”. He was 66 years old when he said this.

“The Age of Reason Begins” marks the Durants’ first collaboration. In 1956, otaku culture finally triumphed over social culture. The 58-year-old Ariel is willing to settle down. In her letter to Will, she quoted Lao Tzu’s words to Confucius, “What Tzu said, his people and bones are already rotten, and his words are in his ears.” This sentence is read as: Only the world of language can make people immortal. Ariel also began to contribute to the writing, especially when Will developed high blood pressure, she was able to continue fighting where he fell. Will is more rational and likes to write about philosophers; Ariel is more emotional and is responsible for writing about famous women and salon culture. Will is still in charge of polishing the final article.

Thanks to the phonograph and radio, they rarely go out to concerts and parties, and they mostly stay at home except for trips to target locations. Will works 10 hours a day on the second floor, and Ariel occupies the first floor. Will has been a vegetarian since he was 18. After Ariel prepares breakfast for him, he goes to eat at his sister’s house, and returns to answer various letters. At noon she and Will share a simple vegetarian meal. Will takes a nap for an hour, wakes up and goes to work in the garden until 3 o’clock, as a physical exercise, and then continues to work. After dinner at 6 o’clock, he and Ariel compared their reading notes.

“The Age of Reason Begins” had the friendliest review, but “The Age of Louis XIV,” which followed, was the hardest. Plum, a history professor at the University of Cambridge, dismissed the entire “History of World Civilizations” as worthless on the grounds that the achievements of contemporary scholars are not valued; science and philosophy are personified, and history is reduced to a collection of biographies. Weir responded: In the dry academic world, data increasingly dominates, and we’re only interested in people.

In 1966, the Weirs thought they were running out of days, so they stopped there and made “Rousseau and the Revolution” the last one. Then, in response to readers’ inquiries about “what have you learned from historical research”, they spent a year writing a book called “The Lessons of History”, discussing “which government is best” and “whether history has really made progress”, etc. topic.

However, death did not come as promised, so they relied on reading and writing for pleasure. Finally, the liberated prisoners were nostalgic for the chains of the year. They turned on the “civilization lathe” again, and started the “Napoleonic Age” of the 5-year project at the age of 85 and 72.

In 1981, Will was 96 and Ariel was 83, still busy writing his last book, A History of Heroes. That fall, Will was hospitalized with a heart attack, and Ariel stayed home because of a previous stroke. She felt that Will would never come back, so she refused to eat and died on October 25. Will’s surgery was a success. Both the daughter and granddaughter kept the news of Ariel’s death from Will, but he learned of Ariel’s death from the TV news, and he passed away a few days later.

Will Durant is a gentleman, but that doesn’t mean he’s really easy-going, and he often teaches his children to be “moderate on the outside and proud on the inside.” Such a huge “History of World Civilizations” cannot be completed by a person without ambition. Few people are lucky enough to hear God’s call and thus have a sense of mission; God’s apostles are often deprived of normal family life, and from this point of view, Will’s ability to have Ariel is really the best lucky.

“In an era when the great men seem to have fallen, Schopenhauer once again raised the banner of hero-worship . The last sentence – Will is also talking to himself. Both the East and the West believe that the heroes of the world belong to the stars in the sky, so we summarize Will’s life as follows: “Leave reverence to the stars in the sky, return your faith to the gods above the stars, and return a warm smile to the human world. ”

The more we sacrifice for history, the farther we are from death.

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