The End of Time
Recognition of consequences
By Bernard Chapin
Two elements are always found in any work by David Horowitz: marvelous writing and unshakeable passion. The End of Time does not disappoint as it is a unique and valuable addition to his oeuvre. As is to be expected, erudition is intrinsic to his efforts. He cannot compose without educating as, despite its brevity, within can be found brilliant quotations and granules of wisdom from the finest minds in the western world. Of these, one by Dr. Johnson is perhaps my favorite, "When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates the mind wonderfully."
Horowitz first got the idea for this reflective essay addressing life, death, and the totality of existence during air travel. He correctly points out that thoughts of death cross the mind of most every passenger as we ride and jerk above the clouds. A combination of 9/11 and being diagnosed with prostate cancer created a need for him to make sense of an indecipherable future. Impending death, if not due to cancer then to old age, conceptually has put him in the position we find him in on the book's jacket cover. He wades alone at sea with no land or person to secure him. The figure we see is a shadowy composite who, like all the rest of us, ultimately stands alone.
The End of Time is not tightly structured which allows its narration to flow along many lines of inquiry. Horowitz discusses a variety of topics and subtopics. Religion, of course, is one of them. He is an agnostic who scrutinizes the Pensees of Pascal, but, ultimately, cannot agree with the philosopher's conclusions. Although it is to our benefit that he so fully elucidates the Frenchman's final observations.
His scholar's eye then fixes itself on cancer and the way in which it is treated today. Horowitz's experience with hospitalization and recovery illustrate just how non-exacting the science of medicine actually is. Different surgeons tell him different things, and before the prostrate operation commences there is cause to believe that his survival may come with the dear price of lost potency and continence. One is left, as far as health is concerned, with the same impression Somerset Maugham had about life, that the only thing with which to be certain is that there is precious little with which to be certain.
It's been said by several commentators that The End of Time is not a political work, but I disagree. It is not as overtly political as the rest of his work, and certainly it is, for the most part, a book about human existence. However, even a reader who was not familiar with the author's opinions and positions, would have no question as to where his political allegiances lie. His arguments are unquestionably (and fortunately) conservative. Indeed, one could argue that a devoted attempt to ascertain what the future will bring is by definition a conservative trait; just as is the sentence, "Therefore recognition of consequences is the beginning of wisdom." Such a statement would be affirmed by nearly everyone on the right.
Horowitz equates Marxism with Islamofacism due to their both resulting from a distaste for life as it actually is. They are utopian fantasies which bear no relation to what is actually possible. Such an equivocation between Marx and our nation's most vile enemies is not something that the majority of leftists would readily accept. They often, even if they do not believe in communism, regard it as being a "lost cause" in pursuit of worthy and noble goals like "social justice," but millions met their deaths in a desire to contort humanity into a shape where theoretical doctrines could be met. The gulags created by communists were a logical outcome of ideas initially presented by Marx.
What is produced by radical belief is a permanent war of faith upon society and everybody else who might opposes their plans. There cannot be any middle ground. In the name of the dream, any slaughter or destruction can be justified. This is true regardless of from where the radicalism derives. As the author points out, the Marxism of his father and the fundamentalism of Mohammed Atta do not differ in their attitude toward non-believers.
His short character study of Atta is prescient and, after examining his history, we can better see how he could so easily have committed the evil acts he did. Atta's "morbid seriousness" is what qualified him to lead, and one cannot help but think of Maximilien Robespierre in such a context. Morbid seriousness is precisely what is characterologically necessary to a revolutionary. Horowitz's observation that martyrs hate life more than they love death is an undeniable truth.
Perhaps my favorite argument presented concerning the absurdity of utopian thinking is that radicals believe the world can be changed while most of us cannot simply lose ten pounds. Such a comparison is admittedly mundane, but is still an effective way to illustrate a profound truth as human beings are not infinitely malleable and never will be. Life is not an eternal May Day Parade. We spend our days severely challenged by the banal which, upon reflection, is not such a bad way to live.
Bernard Chapin is a writer living in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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