Every so often my wife Hyosuk and I go out on date—in our living room. It is evening. The stereo is playing something beautiful. Aspen logs are burning in the fireplace. Hyosuk pours ordinary wine into Waterford crystal goblets that have been in my family for fifty years. Suddenly the wine is excellent, and as we sip, and think, reminisce, rest on melodies, and trade stories of the day, memories come to mind of the family that I love, living and dead, who once raised these antique goblets to their lips.
As I look upon the fine workmanship of the Waterford crystal goblet, I see always and again my wife, family, country and the men and women who have created America and preserved our freedoms with their honor, life and blood. I think of the crystal goblet as proof and symbol of our grand human legacy: A civilization that is the pinnacle of poetry and philosophy, science and genius, faith, martial excellence and indomitable courage.
Once, I asked Hyosuk,
“What if I decided that I must create a crystal goblet equal in beauty to the one from which we sip? What skills must I learn? How shall I call forth fine glass from the sand and forge? By what incantation will I transform it into the purest crystal? How shall I build and work the forge will birth it into being? What are the sacred songs that I must sing, and what prayers say?
And where will I find the artistry to work from molten crystal a goblet whose curved, translucent light delights the heart and mind as it transforms ordinary wines into ancient vintages; that celebrates our marriage, as it recalls and binds us to histories which by fate, rife with joy and pain, has fused us into one.
As rational people we realize that, shorn of the legacy of Western Civilization, we lack the time, skill, intelligence and genius to create again its countless inventions. But, even so, there is a quirk of character that invests in man the pretense that in affairs of the mind—divorced from the empirical demands of science, man’s passion for liberty, and the laws of cause and effect—one may conceive utopias out of the stuff of myopic dreams and predatory ambition; that utopia may be invented just as easily as one might conjure a crystal gobbet from the sand and forge and shape by hand its transcendent symmetry.
Too many in the Sixties generation hit the sheets believing that they were born self-realized, that ancient wisdom heretofore a myth became with them new and real as they opened their eyes, took their mothers’ breast and contemplated the world in passing as if already it were their ordinary birthright—a thing to be taken for granted, a legacy granted to them alone of all the peoples of the earth.
A Sixties Flower Child places a daisy in the barrel of a young soldier’s gun, and is filled with that impenetrable moral superiority that comes with the easy condemnation of war—as if all governments, however vile, might be brought gently to the joys of flowery peace by singing Kum By Yar.
The Sixties minority embraced an anti-establishment drug culture, let their hair grow long, did not wash much, built communes upon the ruin of communes built and abandoned by the exhausted flower children of a lost generation, indulged in free, feckless and unprotected love, declared history irrelevant, knowledge subjective, all cultures absolutely equal and philosophy repealed. They may have accomplished all this without reading a single book.
The Sixties peace generation asked pretentiously: “Ah, but what if there were a war and nobody came? Sadly, to this silly question the answer is that war will come to thee. Still the Sixties generation claimed a mystical and transcendental wisdom that ordinary unenlightened people, those, for example, who did not hang out at coffee houses because they worked for a living and paid taxes—could not possibly comprehend.
Allan Bloom, in his book The Closing of the American Mind wrote of the obdurate ignorance and the demagoguery of a cult of spoiled children: They surrendered their right to learn and think critically, to know the philosophy and history of Athens and Rome, the discoveries of a Renaissance, Enlightenment and the heroes of their own country.
These were the young men and women who claimed the power to conjure from empty and undisciplined minds—minds they had willingly unmoored from reason— utopias as elegant as the crystal goblet master craftsmen learned to work from the sand and fiery forge.
In the ascendance of a sixties movement better described as a species of cultural and nihilistic fascism, those who protested its egotism were condemned and ostracized—even as they are today. Indeed, the works of Plato, Aristotle, the Greek and Roman stoics and playwrights were regarded as the extinct musings of dead white men.
For the Sixties generation the drug culture was the gold standard of coolness. The consumption of LSD and peyote were not simply drugs; they were holy sacraments. The Flower Children passed ownership of this same drug culture to unspeakably murderous predators who for a half century have scourged mercilessly American children, grown men and women, with addiction, sickness and despair, with prostitution, crime and death. Let the stones of Rome rise up in mutiny!
Classical education, as Allan Bloom feared, has been degraded. It is now possible to acquire an American college degree without taking classes in philosophy or history; and college professors, many of whom are the spiritual blood brothers of Sixties radicals substitute socialist credos for critical thought, emotiveness for reason, licentiousness for virtue and post modern nihilism—there is no truth or virtue— for knowledge.
Still, for all their arrogance, they have not and cannot repeal the empirical demands of science, man’s passion for liberty, and the laws of cause and effect.
And there is not a one of them can work a crystal goblet from sand and the forge.
Robert Harkins’ new book will be published later this year. You may find it at Amazon in e-book or hard cover, and at all major bookstores. Its title:
America, Sweet Land of Liberty. Of Thee I Sing.