01 May 2007

The Crystal Palace

Today is an anniversary worthy of note. The "Great Exhibition" opened on the first of May, in London, in 1851. It continued through the summer and into October of that year.

It was the brainchild of Prince Albert, and the ancestor of all subsequent World's Fairs, Expos, etc.

There were eight miles of tables of exhibits of all imaginable sorts from around the world, but visitors especially marvelled at where all these tables were housed -- inside a Crystal Palace, a giant glass-and-iron hall designed by Sir Joseph Paxton.

The Crystal Palace itself became a symbol of the progressive technical impetus of the mid nineteenth century. For some, such as for Dostoyevsky's "underground man," it was a symbol of rationality, and of a blindly optimistic appraisal of the human condition.

To such sunny utopians, the U.M. says, "You believe in a crystal edifice, forever indestructible; that is, in an edifice at which one can neither put out one's tongue on the sly nor make a fig in the pocket. Well, and perhaps I'm afraid of this edifice precisely because it is crystal and forever indestructible, and it will be impossible to put out one's tongue at it even on the sly."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.