#Nothing is New

In George MacDonald’s book Lilith, an exchange takes place between the main character, Mr. Vane, and a woman of the town of Bulika, the capital of the strange world Mr. Vane is in. It’s a fairly desolate city, in ill repair and sparsely populated with inhospitable people. Mr. Vane finally finds someone who will talk to him, and this is their conversation. Even though this novel was published in 1895, it should sound very familiar to modern ears.

I asked her many questions. She told me the people never did anything except dig for precious stones in their cellars. They were rich, and had everything made for them in other towns.

Why?” I asked.

Because it is a disgrace to work,” she answered. Everybody in Bulika knows that.”

I asked how they were rich if none of them earned money. She replied that their ancestors had saved for them, and they never spent. When they wanted money they sold a few of their gems.

But there must be some poor!” I said.

I suppose there must be, but we never think of such people. When one goes poor, we forget them. That is how we keep rich. We mean to be rich always.”

But when you have dug up all your precious stones and sold them, you will have to spend your money, and one day you will have none left!”

We have so many, and there are so many still in the ground, that that day will never come,” she replied.

I asked her why her people had such a hatred of strangers. She answered that the presence of a stranger defiled the city.

How is that?” I said.

Because we are more ancient and noble than any other nation. Therefore,” she added, we always turn strangers out before night.”

Is there no place in the city for the taking in of strangers?”

Such a place would be pulled down, and its owner burned. How is purity to be preserved except by keeping low people at a proper distance? Dignity is such a delicate thing.

Nothing is new.

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