Carl Jung is back. Well, in a minor way. In the sense of, like, never having entirely disappeared since his death in 1961. Jung is the little train engine of psychology: still in service, still hauling freight and passengers on a narrow-gauge railroad off somewhere in the distance. Never the main line, but maybe for that reason never an abandoned line, either. And every 10 years or so, something causes readers to notice that Jung somehow endures, chugging along as he always has.
Sony has claimed that it owns the copyright for the works of Johann Sebastian Bach—more than 1,100 of them.
Now, you might think the fact that Bach died in 1750 would put his music safely in the public domain, seeing as how it’s 178 years out of copyright (under the American system of author’s death plus 70 years). But there the story was, appearing in several news accounts this past week, all prompted by a Boing Boing report about how “you can’t play Bach on Youtube” without getting served with a takedown notice. Even the jazz historian Ted Gioia, as sane a music critic as exists these days, was prompted to tweet “Sony says they own his compositions.”
In the fall of 1868, almost exactly 150 years ago, Louisa May Alcott wrote her famous children’s story Little Women, and just for the sake of that anniversary we should probably note one obvious fact about the beloved classic: It’s a rotten piece of work. Bloated by the demands of its publisher. Twisted by the dislike of the author for her own project. Alternately simpering and resentful. One half goop and the other half goo. Any sane child, settling under a tree to read, would fling the sodden mess up to hang itself in the highest branches, where the birds could use its pages for their nests. At least that way some of God’s creatures would find it useful.
The trouble with most of our attempts to tell the story of Rome—to deploy Rome as a metaphor in current events, for that matter—is that we tend to focus on the end points: the failure of the republic, the last days of the empire. The real puzzle of Rome, for historians and political theorists alike, is not its failure but its survival.
Who could doubt that the best thing America has experienced since the Second World War is the collapse of the Soviet empire? Victory in the Cold War finished off the deep threat of international communism backed by major military power. It freed the United States from entanglement in proxy wars with the Soviet Union, and it released from the national consciousness the high tension of possible global thermonuclear war. “The biggest thing that has happened in the world in my life, in our lives, is this,” George H.W. Bush would later write. “By the grace of God, America won the Cold War.”
Here’s a claim you encounter from time to time: The invention of the horse collar eliminated slavery in medieval and early modern Europe. The continent still had plenty of peonage servitude, of course; the serfs in Tsarist Russia, for example, were hardly a beacon of freedom unto the world. Still, where direct slavery persisted in the Ottoman lands and sub-Saharan Africa, and would roar back in the European possessions of the New World, something in Europe caused slavery to fade. And from the fading, there would build the abolitionist movement that would eventually turn the West against even the idea of slavery.
The best way I’ve found to put the question is this: Are the Gates of Hell broken in, or broken out? Did Christ on Holy Saturday descend to Hell in his glory as the risen king, smashing the gates in as he strode forth to claim the souls of the patriarchs and prophets? Or did he ascend from the depths of Hell in his Resurrection, gathering up the souls around him and breaking open Hell from the inside as he ascended into Heaven?