by Kristo Ivanov





On occasion of my 70th birthday in October 2007, and as a response to inquiries about research results, thoughts and feelings, both professional and personal, I presented the first part of the following text in the form of a few relevant excerpts from The Ecclesiastes. Under the subsequent years I did complete this text with some pertinent additions that all are now gathered into this more comprehensive Research Summary on the 75th Birthday in 2012. Additional strong personal emotions and insights with far reaching intellectual implications for me were lately formulated in some of the texts that I included in my weblog. For the rest I have become firmer in my conviction that what is most needed is a research integrated with "Evangelization" or "Apocalypticism" as illustrated at the end of a timely research report, a review of the historical and political research summarized in the Swedish book with the title, in my English translation, Is the Swede a Human Being? I believe that the text below can also work as a handbook for professors emeriti in general, and as a guide for a progressive closing of life's balance-sheet:




"What has happened will happen again, and what has been done will be done again, and there is nothing new under the sun...The men of old are not remembered, and those who follow will not be remembered by those who follow them..."(1:9, 11)


"So I applied my mind to understand wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly, and I came to see that this too is chasing the wind. For in much wisdom is much vexation, and the more a man knows, the more he has to suffer..."(1:17)


"Yes, indeed, I got pleasure from all my labour, and for all my labour this was my reward. Then I turned and reviewed all my handiwork, all my labour and toil, and I saw that everything was emptiness and chasing the wind, of no profit under the sun..."(2:10)


"What sort of man will he be who succeeds me, who inherits what others have acquired? Who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will be the master of all the fruits of my labour and skill here under the sun. This too is emptiness." (2:18)


"One more thing I have observed here under the sun: speed does not win the race nor strength the battle. Bread does not belong to the wise, nor wealth to the intelligent, nor success to the skilful; time and chance govern all..."(9:11)


"One further warning, my son: the use of books is endless, and much study is wearisome."(12:12)




From: The new English Bible. (1970). Cambridge: Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press. (Trans. under the auspices of the Joint Committee on the new translation of the Bible.)








Selection from

Eliot, T. S. (1963). Collected poems 1909-1962. London and Boston: Faber and Faber.




We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time...


(From "Little Gidding", the third of Four Quartets, p. 222)



Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt

Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure

Because one has only learnt to get the better words

For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which

One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture

Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate

With shabby equipment always deteriorating

In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,

Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer

By strength and submission, has already been discovered

Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope

To emulate - but there is no competition -

There is only the fight to recover what has been lost

And found and lost again and again: and now under conditions

That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.

For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.


(From Four Quartets: East Coker,1940, p. 202-203)




Let me disclose the gifts reserved for age

To set a crown upon your lifetime's effort.

First, the cold friction of expiring sense

Without enchantment, offering no promise

But bitter tastelessness of shadow fruit

As body and soul being to fall asunder.

Second, the conscious impotence of rage

At human folly, and the laceration

Of laughter at what ceases to amuse.

And last, the rending pain of re-enactment

Of all that you have done, and been; the shame

Of motives late revealed, and the awareness

Of things ill done and done to others' harm

Which once you took for exercise of virtue.

Then fools' approval stings, and honour stains.

From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit

Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire

Where you must move in measure, like a dancer.

(From Four Quartets: Little Gidding, p. 218)




The endless cycle of ideas and action.

Endless invention, endless experiment,

Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;

Knowledge of speech, but not silence;

Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.

All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,

All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,

But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.

Where is the Life we have lost in living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?


(From Choruses from "The Rock", 1934, p. 161)




They constantly try to escape

From the darkness outside and within

By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.


(From Choruses from "The Rock", 1934), p. 174








Selection from

Thomas à Kempis (attributed to). The Imitation of Christ

Selected from the translation: The Holy Rosary, (cf. Christian classics)

From Book One


Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion.

The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be proud, therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you. If you think you know many things and understand them well enough, realize at the same time that there is much you do not know. Hence, do not affect wisdom, but admit your ignorance.

Tell me, where now are all the masters and teachers whom you knew so well in life and who were famous for their learning? Others have already taken their places and I know not whether they ever think of their predecessors. During life they seemed to be something; now they are seldom remembered. How quickly the glory of the world passes away! If only their lives had kept pace with their learning, then their study and reading would have been worth while.



From Book Two


Indeed, the more spiritual progress a person makes, so much heavier will he frequently find the cross, because as his love increases, the pain of his exile also increases.

From Book Three

Never read them for the purpose of appearing more learned or more wise. Apply yourself to mortifying your vices, for this will benefit you more than your understanding of many difficult questions.








And, whoever feels that there is too much "religion" in my quotations, please relax. I am well aware of that kind of discussions that are summarized, for instance, in Leszek Kolakowski's book Religion (Oxford University Press, 1982) and, recommending it as intelligent entertainment for intelligent atheists, in Alain de Botton's Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Books, 2012). Steven Shapin in his A Social History of Truth (The University of Chicago press, 1994) shows how religious thought could even support scientific effort. But if you prefer more and mere secular thoughts, I guess that Jane Miller's Crazy Age: Thoughts on Being Old, may be satisfactory! A more sophisticated secular alternative for those who read French is Vladimir Jankélévitch, La Mort (Death.)

Always welcome with your thoughts and comments!


Kristo Ivanov