Fallen Leaves: Last Words on Life, Love, War, and God
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Praised as a “revelatory” book by The Wall Street Journal, this is the last and most personal work of Pulitzer Prize–winning author and historian Will Durant, discovered thirty-two years after his death.
The culmination of Will Durant’s sixty-plus years spent researching the philosophies, religions, arts, sciences, and civilizations from across the world, Fallen Leaves is the distilled wisdom of one of the world’s greatest minds, a man with a renowned talent for rendering the insights of the past accessible. Over the course of Durant’s career he received numerous letters from “curious readers who have challenged me to speak my mind on the timeless questions of human life and fate.” With Fallen Leaves, his final book, he at last accepted their challenge.
In twenty-two short chapters, Durant addresses everything from youth and old age to religion, morals, sex, war, politics, and art. Fallen Leaves is “a thought-provoking array of opinions” (Publishers Weekly), offering elegant prose, deep insights, and Durant’s revealing conclusions about the perennial problems and greatest joys we face as a species. In Durant’s singular voice, here is a message of insight for everyone who has ever sought meaning in life or the counsel of a learned friend while navigating life’s journey.
intelligence, consciousness, and informed and deliberate will, to statesmen, poets, saints, artists, musicians, scientists, and philosophers. Let me have something to worship! I consider myself a Christian in the literal and difficult sense of sincerely admiring the personality and ethics of Christ, and making a persistent effort to behave like a Christian. I am not quite a saint. I have on several occasions attended and furtively enjoyed theatrical displays featuring the female form. Even in my
would help men to raise themselves out of the corruption and violence that threaten to consume our civilization. We believe that such a Christianity would draw to itself the Buddhas and Kabirs, the Lao-tzus and Kagawas, the Platos and Zenos, the Spinozas and Einsteins, the Jeffersons and Franklins, the Lincolns and Whitmans, the Tolstoys and Tagores of time to come. We see the intellectual classes returning to the temple, glad to mingle once more with the simplest worshippers, happy to feel a
reveal a secret doubt of their own inner worth. I counsel them to be as pure as Galahad, and I assure them that continence will do them no harm if they can buffet the taunts of sophomores shallow with sophistication. But I am not surprised that they do not take me seriously. I know that the widened gap between biological and economic maturity has put premarital sex relations into the new code. The boy welling with hormones and coursing blood wonders why he should not solicit the cooperation of a
such moods, but come back to women—American, Irish, English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Scandinavian, Polish, Russian (did you ever see Anna Pavlova?), Greek (we called our lovely guide in Greece in 1936 Aphrodite), Hindu, Muslim (have you read Arabic or Persian love poems?), Chinese, Japanese—they are all, even if so briefly, miracles of form, features, and alluring grace. Almost anything about an educated woman in her prime can make me maudlin. I marvel at the velvet smoothness of her
and the geologists when they tell us the age of the Earth or its strata. I am a bit dubious of the changing pictures by which the physicists represent the inside of the atom; like Pascal, I am oppressed between the ever-elusive infinitesimal and the unattainable, inconceivable infinite. I honor Charles Darwin as the greatest and gentlest revolutionist in modern European history, but I note that biologists have not yet explained how a tiny seed can contain a tree or ordain every branch on the