Something commensurate to our capacity for wonder

Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Similarly, destiny is when a personal dream meets historical necessity. American Destiny, then, was the realization of a dream that ushered in a new chapter of world history. The greatest dreams of the Enlightenment met a New World in which to express themselves. In the centuries that followed, the untamed land of liberty became the continent-spanning home to industry and ingenuity, and ultimately the seat of a world empire and its shining example of freedom and prosperity.

But along the way, while our nation’s dream-life has grown more expansive than ever before, our hold on history has slipped away. Dream as we may, it is nevertheless hard to imagine that, like past generations of Americans, we too may have our rendezvous with destiny. It is no wonder, however—the dreams that have gripped modern America one after the other have all, in some way, involved evading the world we were born into. So if we are to reclaim what has made America special it is not enough that we simply keep on dreaming. We must first rediscover our place in history.

Finding our place in history means identifying the threads that connect us to the past which will link the future to our times as well. You might think that there should be no special difficulty in doing this, but I believe that the history-annihilating, world-evading, short-circuiting aspects of American culture over the past fifty years require special care. Regaining our bearings requires reeling in our loftiest appraisals of the American century: evading history is not the same as ending it, traveling beyond our home planet is not the same as transcending it, and an electronic double of life is not a new life. But these concessions are no cause for disappointment.

Our dreams are a key part of human nature, and central to our history as a people and a nation, but they are after all only part of the story. So when we feel that the future is known and it looks like an elaboration of one of these totalizing dreams of transcendence, I believe we are mistaken. Our dreams have gotten too big, nearly becoming worlds of their own, but the real historical world marches on. We’re lost in the clouds, but destiny will be encountered by those who stand firmly on the ground with high ideals in their hearts.

 
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