“’History,’ said Joyce’s Daedalus, ‘is a nightmare from which I am trying to wake.’ But we do not awake. Though we constantly make a heroic attempt to rise to a level ethically superior to nature, our own nature, again and again we suffer a fall – brought low by some outburst of madness because of the limiting defects inherent in our species”
This quote is really sad. It says that even though people want to be able to wake up, to break free, to have free will essentially, they cannot because they as humans are flawed and no matter how hard they try they cannot do that. It is a bit like saying “anything is possible” and then having a friend say “give me wings now” because, given years of genetic engineering, it may one day be possible to give humans wings but when given a time limit there is a limited set of things you can accomplish. “Again and again we suffer a fall” is very poignant because, again, people may try to see history as a guide of what to do and what not to do, but the fact remains that we will continue to repeat ourselves and even with new ideas and new innovations we will continue to repeat history and make the same mistakes because that is simply human nature. Human nature is simultaneously holding us back and pushing us forwards; forcing us to race ahead while shackling our ankles. And in reality, whenever we attempt to use our nature to our advantage, our wings will ultimately melt and force us to the ground. We can dream, and we can hope, but we will never actually achieve. And that is the saddest thing about this quote.
However, there is always something to be said for defying the mundane and reaching higher. Another part of human nature, besides failure apparently, is the thirst for success, for competition, for being able to prove oneself against the hardships of the world. And if humans can continue to do that, maybe they can eventually break free of the nightmare of history. Maybe working together, they can wake up. Unfortunately, that is mostly wishful thinking, because a side effect of competing is making enemies. It is unavoidable. Some may say that it doesn’t have to be that way, but look around. At every single sporting event, there are the winners and the losers. In every aspect of life, there are people that others love to hate and hate to love and every shade of feeling in between. But, essentially, since humans remain the same over the millennia, it stands to reason that the stories about them would repeat themselves as well as the traits that survive.