When Theories Change and Crash

A great friend reminded me last night of this passage in The Grapes of Wrath. He brought it up in the context of an awful personal situation, but the passage — and the book — seem resonant in the time we're all living through.

For man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe,
grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges
ahead of his accomplishments. This you may say of man — when theories
change and crash, when schools, philosophies, when narrow dark alleys
of thought, national, religious, economic, grow and disintegrate, man
reaches, stumbles forward, painfully, mistakenly sometimes. Having
stepped forward, he may slip back, but only half a step, never the full
step back. This you may say and know it and know it. This you may know
when the bombs plummet out of the black planes on the market place,
when prisoners are stuck like pigs, when the crushed bodies drain
filthily in the dust. You may know it in this way. If the step were not
being taken, if the stumbling-forward ache were not alive, the bombs
would not fall, the throats would not be cut. Fear the time when the
bombs stop falling while the bombers live—for every bomb is proof that
the spirit has not died. And fear the time when the strikes stop while
the great owners live—for every little beaten strike is proof that the
step is being taken. And this you can know—fear the time when Manself
will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the
foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the
universe.

I was able to find this passage thanks to Wikiquote.