Consider the messengers. The people who deliver these messages have no heart. The individual soul is of no interest to them. The media? Social scientists? Politicians? Those in search of heart and soul need to look elsewhere.
Where, then, should we turn? Well, as one might expect, I'm inclined to suggest that poetry may be a good place to start. It is not the only place, of course. We are in search of that which is "true and not feigning," wherever we can find it.
If we start our search with poetry, we can begin at random. We would soon discover that a poem written during the first century, B. C., in the Roman Empire, a poem written in China during the T'ang Dynasty, a poem written in Japan during the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 17th century, and a poem written in Scotland in the 20th century all say essentially the same thing about how we live.
Ian Fleming (1906-1994), "Fisher Houses, Arbroath" (1949)
Let's start with Horace, addressing his female acquaintance Leuconoe.
Ah do not strive too much to know,
My dear Leuconoe,
What the kind gods design to do
With me and thee.
Ah do not you consult the stars,
Contented bear thy doom,
Rather than thus increase thy fears
For what will come:
Whether they'll give one winter more,
Or else make this thy last;
Which breaks the waves on Tyrrhene shore
With many a blast.
Be wise, and drink; cut off long cares
From thy contracted span,
Nor stretch extensive hopes and fears
Beyond a man:
E'en whilst we speak, the Envious Time
Doth make swift haste away;
Then seize the present, use thy prime,
Nor trust another day.
Horace (translated by Thomas Creech), Odes, Book I, Ode 11, in Thomas Creech, The Odes, Satires, and Epistles of Horace (1684).
Critical opinion is divided as to whether Horace is providing sage advice to a young friend or wooing a prospective lover. But, whatever his motives, the advice is clear: carpe diem (which Creech translates as "seize the present" rather than the usual "seize the day"), for you may not be here tomorrow.
Ian Fleming, "Window on the Sea" (1965)
The post-Enlightenment belief in the perfectibility of society, and in our ever-advancing march into a promised utopian future, is, not surprisingly, accompanied by ignorance of both human nature and history on the part of the true believers. But, should the busybodies wish to educate themselves (an unlikely prospect), they need not look far to discover what they ought to have known from the start: for centuries, poets have been telling us exactly how human nature and history work.
The Ruin of the Capital of Yueh
Hither returned Kou Chien, the King of Yueh, in triumph;
He had destroyed the Kingdom of Wu.
His loyal men came home in brilliance of brocade,
And the women of the court thronged the palace
Like flowers that fill the spring --
Now only a flock of partridges are flying in the twilight.
Li Po (translated by Shigeyoshi Obata), in Shigeyoshi Obata, The Works of Li Po (E. P. Dutton 1922).
The Kingdom of Wu was conquered by the Kingdom of Yueh in the 5th century, B. C. A century later, the Kingdom of Yueh was conquered by the Kingdom of Chu. A century or so later the Kingdom of Chu was conquered by the Qin Dynasty . . . . .
The poem brings to mind a passage from Herodotus:
"For the cities which were formerly great, have most of them become insignificant; and such as are at present powerful, were weak in the olden time. I shall therefore discourse equally of both, convinced that human happiness never continues long in one stay."
Herodotus (translated by George Rawlinson), in George Rawlinson, History of Herodotus, Volume 1, Book I, Section 5 (Fourth Edition 1880), page 148.
Ian Fleming, "Arbroath Harbour" (1952)
Basho wrote the following haiku in 1689, when visiting Hiraizumi, the site of a 12th century battle between two samurai clans.
Ah! Summer grasses!
All that remains
Of the warriors' dreams.
Basho (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 3: Summer-Autumn (Hokuseido Press 1952), page 309.
Ian Fleming, "Arbroath Harbour" (1951)
Finally, Scotland in the 20th century brings us full circle. Kingdoms, dynasties, clans. An individual life. One and the same.
So Many Summers
Beside one loch, a hind's neat skeleton,
Beside another, a boat pulled high and dry:
Two neat geometries drawn in the weather:
Two things already dead and still to die.
I passed them every summer, rod in hand,
Skirting the bright blue or the spitting gray,
And, every summer, saw how the bleached timbers
Gaped wider and the neat ribs fell away.
Time adds one malice to another one --
Now you'd look very close before you knew
If it's the boat that ran, the hind went sailing.
So many summers, and I have lived them too.
Norman MacCaig, in Ewen McCaig (editor), The Poems of Norman MacCaig (Polygon 2009).
As I have noted in the past, I cannot claim to have gained any wisdom during my years on Earth. I am not qualified to give advice on how to live. But I do know that human nature never changes. And I also know that the World is a paradise just as it is. At this moment.
Ian Fleming, "Fisherman's Window"