The sea is calm tonight.The tide is full, the moon lies fairUpon the straits; on the French coast the lightGleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!Only, from the long line of sprayWhere the sea meets the moon-blanched land,Listen! you hear the grating roarOf pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,At their return, up the high strand,Begin, and cease, and then again begin,With tremulous cadence slow, and bringThe eternal note of sadness in.Sophocles long agoHeard it on the Ægean, and it broughtInto his mind the turbid ebb and flowOf human misery; weFind also in the sound a thought,Hearing it by this distant northern sea.The Sea of FaithWas once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shoreLay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.But now I only hearIts melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,Retreating, to the breathOf the night-wind, down the vast edges drearAnd naked shingles of the world.Ah, love, let us be trueTo one another! for the world, which seemsTo lie before us like a land of dreams,So various, so beautiful, so new,Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;And we are here as on a darkling plainSwept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,Where ignorant armies clash by night.
There are, I think, two ways of looking at politics. You can see it as a conflict of ideas- right ones and wrong ones- or you can see it as a conflict among different sources of power, which use ideas to advance their cause and increase their influence. The danger that Orwell diagnosed and prophesized is that our ability to recognize and constrain power depends upon language and words, particularly in a complex society in which violence is hidden from view and our perceptions are shaped via technological intermediaries. The real danger is not your ideological enemy, even when they appear to be triumphing over you on the field of battle and trampling over your well-tended land. The modern world offers ample grounds for retreat, for consolidation, for nourishing yourself on contrary voices and on the voices of the past.
If you live in a wealthy country, the “natural world” is in some ways healthier and more bountiful than it has been in a century or more, more available outside our door and full of its own mysteries and messages.
The danger is forgetting, sealing ourselves in a nutshell and counting it infinite space, wandering in a hall of mirrors and thinking we are amongst all of our friends.