Brendan Greeley in a cover story, Why Bin Laden Lost, written for Bloomberg Business Week says that,
“The United States has no purpose [this being] perhaps its greatest achievement. … The United States was not founded for the greater glory of anything,… [is not] the necessary outcome of history, but [exists] for the freedom to collect figurines, to join a clogging troupe (a type of folk dance), to take a road trip….
“The most successful organizing principle the world has ever known is a simple guarantee that we can buy and do things that have no point greater than the satisfaction of our own happiness.”
A state exists only, Greeley reminds us, to secure life and liberty and thereby allow the full pursuit of happiness.
That’s why Americans have always loved, and read Mark Twain more than Herman Melville. In fact, when Melville died in 1891, his death went almost unnoticed.
We were and probably still are much more with Twain. It is still enough for most of us to go down river on a flat boat, or perhaps stop and start a business of our own, be it only a fruit stand, the kind of things that Twain, himself, cared most about.
One certainly doesn’t need to sail the waters of the Western globe in search of a particular sperm whale as Ahab, nor even less does one need to attempt the restoration in the present of a 7th century Muslim Empire as Bin Laden.
Among us the Ahabs and the Bin Ladens will always fail because we don’t love their big ideas. We love the little things, being seated at a beach café and feeling the sand still on our feet and the ocean breeze in our hair, being in the Apple store awaiting our turn to speak with one of the many blue shirted sales people who will have answers for our questions,
or just being at home with our families and friends and watching and commenting on the endless series of extraordinary goings on in the world that come miraculously into our living rooms on the big screen.