Symphony of History

In his Christianity and History (94), Herbert Butterfield gives this wonderful musical analogy of history:

“We might say that this human story is like a piece of orchestra music that we are playing over for the first time. In our presumption we may act as though we were the composer of the piece or try to bring out our own particular part as the leading one. But in reality I personally only see the part of it, shall we say, the second clarinet, and of course even within the limits of that I never know what is coming after the page that now lies open before me. None of us can know what the whole score amounts to except as far as we have already played it over together, and even so the meaning of a passage may not be clear at once – just as the events of 1914 only begin to be seen in perspective in the 1940s. If I am sure that B flat is the next note that I have to play I can never feel certain that it will not come with surprising implications until I have heard what other people are going to play at the same moment. And no single person in the orchestra can have any idea when or where this piece of music is going to end.”

A high concentration of wisdom in that paragraph.

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