Making Energy

The lives of great men are largely unconstrained, which may explain why there are so few great men today.  All men are, of course, constrained by their personal limitations as well as by the limitations their age imposes on them, but it is in the nature of greatness to overcome such limitations to the extent that they can be overcome.  Nevertheless, certain periods of history are more amenable to greatness than others; usually, these others are conducive more to the flourishing of what Evelyn Waugh called the Common Man (at least insofar as the Common Man understands flourishing) than to that of the Uncommon, who is constrained precisely to the extent that the Common Man is unbound.

The second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th scarcely appeared as a golden age in Western European civilization.  Still, there is degree in all things; and a civilization that not only produced such a man as Hilaire Belloc but permitted him to flourish (though not financially) has a lot to be said for it (though Belloc himself might not have agreed).  He was a man of fluid personality to match his mercurial temperament, and this fluidity extended to his amorphous and unpredictable career.  In a more systematized and sclerotic society like our own, in which success requires that everyone be more or less identified with a single product or activity—in effect, to be his own brand name—Belloc...

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