Old ideas give way slowly; for they are more than abstract logical forms and categories. They are habits, predispositions, deeply engrained attitudes of aversion and preference. Moreover, the conviction persists—though history shows it to be a hallucination that all the questions that the human mind has asked are questions that can be answered in terms of the alternatives that the questions themselves present. But in fact intellectual progress usually occurs through sheer abandonment of questions together with both of the alternatives they assume an abandonment that results from their decreasing vitality and a change of urgent interest. We do not solve them: we get over them.
Old questions are solved by disappearing, evaporating, while new questions corresponding to the changed attitude of endeavor and preference take their place. (19)
When we brought up the question of city planning, Mr. Gruen grumbled that “planning” has become a dirty word in this country. “Almost as bad as if Lenin had invented it,” he said. “The fact is no city was ever planned enough. Planned and replanned. Here in New York, we’re like a big family that’s all dressed up with no place to go. Wherever we turn, it’s jostle and bustle and frayed nerves and bad tempers. In Detroit, six or seven thousand people make their way to Northland on Sunday afternoons. The stores are closed, so what are they doing there? Looking for open space. They window-shop and stroll through the gardens and sit on benches and soak up the sun and enjoy the fountains and sculpture. What Northland teaches us is this—that it’s the merchants who will save our urban civilization. ‘Planning’ isn’t a dirty word to them; good planning means good business. Besides, any improvements they make are tax-deductible. Sometimes self-interest has remarkable spiritual consequences. As art patrons, merchants can be to our time what the Church and the nobility were to the Middle Ages.”
“Every year of my life,” says Cecil, “I grow more convinced that it is wisest and best to fix our attention on the beautiful and the good, and dwell as little as possible on the dark and the base.” Yet it is said that the past-meridians are prone to be querulous, dissatisfied, and to multiply complaints. I think I have heard a few of these. Supposing we should listen to and examine them. ” The world is not what it used to be.” No. It is in a state of palpable progress. It has thrown off its seven-mile boots, and travels by steam. We plod after it in our antique, lumbering stage-coaches, and can scarcely keep in sight the smoke of its engine. We can not overtake it, and it will not stay for us. The world is in a different phase of action. It pleads guilty to this accusation.
What next? ” We do not receive the respect that was once paid to age.” Perhaps we expect too much. Is not something due from us? We think the young neglect us. Do we not owe something to the young ourselves? Those who linger at a banquet after others are gone, should take especial pains to make themselves agreeable. If we find less courtesy than we wish, let us show more. It becomes us to be very meek and patient, to make amends for our long entertainment at life’s board. “I had a beautiful dream,” said a bright boy. “I thought we children were all in heaven, and so happy. By and by, grandfather came in frowning, and said as he always does, ‘Can’t these children stop their noise?’ So, we all ran away.” (24-25)