Since I’ve discovered that posting excerpts from The New Yorker on my blog doubles my readership, I made sure to stumble across another fascinating piece.  Ha ha.  But no, seriously, I was going to post this anyway.  I just kept this issue in the bathroom for a long time and always forgot to bring it back downstairs.

Since I’m reading a vast and sweeping Russian novel (The Brothers Karamazov), this Tolstoyan view of history is familiar to me, and very compelling.  Studying history in college, focusing on momentum instead of fireworks, also pushes me away from the center and toward this end of the spectrum.  Here’s some food for thought.

“There is history the way Tolstoy imagined it, as a great, slow-moving weather system in which even tsars and generals are just leaves before the storm.  And there is history the way Hollywood imagines it, as a single story line in which the right move by the tsar or the wrong move by the general changes everything.  Most of us, deep down, are probably Hollywood people.  We like to invent ‘what if’ scenarios — what if x had never happened, what if y had happened instead? — because we like to believe that individual decisions make a difference: that, if not for x, or if only there had been y, history might have plunged forever down a completely different path.  Since we are agents, we have an interest in the efficacy of agency” (69).

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