“Gone before we have time to consider them.”

This journal entry is excerpted from Sketches From A Life by George F. Kennan, ©1989:

December 20, 1927

Reading Buddenbrooks (Thomas Mann), this Forsyte Saga of old Lübeck, I cannot help but regret that I did not live fifty or a hundred years sooner. Life is too full in these times to be comprehensible. We know too many cities to be able to grow into any of them, and our arrivals and departures are no longer matters for emotional debauches– they are too common. Similarly, we have too many friends to have any friendships, too many books to know any of them well; and the quality of our impressions gives way to quantity, so that life begins to seem like a movie, with hundreds of kaleidoscopic scenes flashing on and off our field of perception– gone before we have time to consider them.

I should like to have lived in days when a visit was a matter of months, when political and social problems were regarded from simple standpoints called “liberal” and “conservative,” when foreign countries were still foreign, when a vast part of the world always bore the glamour of the great unknown, when there were still wars worth fighting and gods worth worshiping.