Is there something here we fear to face, except when clothed in safely sterilized professional speech? Have we grown reluctant in this age of power to admit mystery and beauty into our thoughts, or to learn where power ceases?
I referred a few moments ago to one of our own forebears on a gravel bar, thumbing a pebble. If, after the ages of building and destroying, if after the measuring of light years, and the powers probed at the atom’s heart, if after the last iron is rust-eaten and the last glass lies shattered in the streets, a man, some savage, some remnant of what once we were, pauses on his way to the tribal drinking place and feels rising from within his soul the inexplicable mist of terror and beauty that is evoked from old ruins — even the ruins of the greatest city in the world — then, I say, all will still be well with man.
And if that savage can pluck a stone from the gravel because it shone like crystal when the water rushed over it, and hold it against the sunset, he will be as we were in the beginning, whole — as we were when we were children, before we began to split the knowledge from the dream. All talk of the two cultures is an illusion; it is the pebble that tells man’s story. Upon it is written man’s two faces, the artistic and the practical. They are expressed upon one stone over which a hand once closed, no less firm because the mind behind it was submerged in light and shadow and deep wonder.
Today we hold a stone, the heavy stone of power. We must perceive beyond it, however, by the aid of the artistic imagination, those humane insights and understandings that alone can lighten our burden and enable us to shape ourselves, rather than the stone, into the forms that great art has anticipated.
Loren Eiseley, “The Illusion of the Two Cultures” (1964)