Henry James’s true country, Azar Nafisi assures us, was the imagination, in a Blakean sense, meaning the life of the spirit. At the start of the Great War, James wrote to Rhoda Broughton:
Black and hideous to me is the tragedy that gathers, and I am sick beyond cure to have lived to see it. You and I, the ornaments of our generation, should have been spared this wreck of our belief that these long years we had seen civilisation grow and the worst became possible.
From ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’ by Azar Nafisi, Harper Perennial, 2007, p216.
We must remind ourselves of the danger of anaesthetising the imagination too much, to the extent where those caught up in fighting are merely ‘little brown men killing little brown men’, as one US General memorably said. No doubt he was making the world safer, in his own mind. But as Blake reminds us:
Caiaphas was in his own mind
A benefactor to mankind.
The Everlasting Gospel.
We are brothers and sisters of the same dust, the dust of Earth, the dust of the stars, formed by the breath of God.