Tuesday, May 15, 2018
3:15 a.m. Shall we continue?
You have been reading about politics in the middle 1800s.
A history of the American Whig Party I bought a while ago, yes. A disgusting chronicle of short-sightedness, petty intrigue, back-stabbing, imbecility – hard to find the right superlatives. I mean, of course, on all sides, not merely the Whigs. Of course part of it is likely to be the author’s selection of facts, but the facts are there.
Yes. Our point here is that such chronicles may serve to illustrate something of the forces affecting a present moment that are beyond any individual’s personal contribution but are more – and other – than the sum of many such individual additions.
I have been getting something of this in the background as I read. You probably know I sometimes fantasize about writing a history in which emotions and shortcomings are the villains of the piece, rather than any specific embodiments.
However, so far this is unlikely to be very comprehensible to any who read this. A few, maybe. So let’s proceed to tie it in. Sketch just one or two factors in those decades leading to the Civil War.
I think I see what you’re going to do with it. Interesting. Very well, this author’s thesis is that the breakup of the Whig Party did indeed lead to the Civil War, as is commonly understood, but that the breakup was caused not only by sectional tensions over slavery but by internal infighting that made it impossible to over –
No, a better way to say it would be that he points out how the search for tactical advantage kept leading various politicians to adopt this or that position, and how the inadvertent and unlooked-for result was to sharpen sectional animosities. I take it you don’t need me to go into specifics. The stupid bastards on all sides were mostly not malicious, with the notable insane exception of John Caldwell Calhoun, may he burn in hell, but were petty, short-sighted, opportunistic, fearful, greedy – name it. Obsessed with power, greedy for patronage and the financial results of patronage, eternally concerned with their reputation among their constituents but not nearly so much with any reason for the reputation – they played their usual games and all the while played to base emotions among the electorate as if thoughts – and emotions! – were not things. In a room packed with dynamite, they threw cherry bombs at each other while always loudly proclaiming how they were forced to do it in self-defense, etc.
Actually, no, I don’t. Reading about it is like wading through a sewer.
You don’t feel better even from the thought that your own day isn’t any worse than the past?
Not really. Should I rejoice that they’re still throwing cherry bombs?
So let’s focus on our point for today. Each of those politicians and groups of politicians, acting from whatever motives (and, this historian to the contrary, more of them, more of the time, were interested in doing the right thing than he allows, only the right thing is hard to find in some times)
I’m going to introduce you to semi-colons and periods sometime. Care to put a point to the sentence and begin a new one?
Care to recalibrate?
People act out of mixed motives; nothing new about that. Politics might even be defined as acting from mixed motives to attain a temporary consensus or decision. Ignoring low motives is as misleading as ignoring more high-minded ones. More, high-minded motives may do more damage than low self-centered ones, because of course politics like any other social dynamic represents contradictory forces. Venality may reconcile antagonisms more easily than self-righteousness does, sometimes.
In some eras, people’s cross-motives result in stacking dynamite. At other times, that dynamite gets unstacked, or scattered, or – goes off. And those various results constitute what we are calling the weather – the result of personal and impersonal forces over time creating a situation in which you wind up living.
A different example. If you were born in the second or third decade of the twentieth century – somewhere between 1910 and 1930 – you were pretty certain to be centrally affected by World War II. You could look at it as (1) you came in at that period in order to experience it, or (2) you came in for whatever reasons and had to experience it as an unavoidable side-effect. Neither view quite contradicts the other; neither is sufficient in itself. World War II, its lead-in and its aftershocks, were the weather for that whole century. That doesn’t make it the unique focus, obviously. Plenty of things happened and were going to happen besides the war – but it affected everything.
You could argue that World War I was actually a bigger event, in that it set the stage for the second war.
But that isn’t our focus here. The point is, people of a certain generation had no way to live their lives unaffected by that central event, even if they were never soldiers or war workers, even if their country remained neutral, even if they scarcely knew it was going on.
I haven’t gotten the crux of this yet.
No. It seemed a simple point to make.
Well, I’ll get my second mug of coffee and maybe it will become clearer.
There’s no point in thinking that personal reality extends to changing the entire history of the world. It has its own cumulative inertia.
I came to think of it as changing which timestream we wished to be conscious of, rather than thinking we actually changed anything.
Envisioning the simultaneous existence of millions of timestreams, differing from each other slightly or greatly, enabled you to escape from the trap of predestination on one side and irretrievable error on the other. But it is only an escape from a false dilemma, not in and of itself accurate.
So enlighten us.
Reality isn’t fragmented into alternative timestreams. It isn’t fragmented at all, quantum physicists and you to the contrary. What it is, instead, is infinitely plastic, infinitely malleable. But this is difficult to cram into 3D logic, given language with its 3D-driven sequential restrictions. All possible worlds exist, yes, but not exactly simultaneously and side by side. More like – well, it’s hard to find an analogy that is not so 3D-restriction-bound as to be impossible. We looked at expressing it as many channels broadcasting at different frequencies, with your intent being the tuner, but really that is more misleading than helpful. Let’s say all reality is many potential results of flicks on the kaleidoscope. Other situations don’t quite exist. It’s hard to describe. It may be more illuminative to say that the reality the kaleidoscope shows isn’t as real or as more definite [than potential others] as it appears. There’s less difference between what manifests and what doesn’t.
But this still drags us away from the one simple point we are pursuing, or illustrating – or, anyway, trying to illustrate. The reality you experience is not a reality that is merely the sum of your personal past experiences or inclinations. It is not merely an externalized representative of your psyche, either your present life’s (your soul’s) psyche by itself or your spirit’s extended experience over many lives. Everyday experience teaches you this, or you – Frank – wouldn’t be living in a reality that followed the murder of John F. Kennedy, let alone Lincoln. It was shaped by more than that, and a moment’s thought will tell you why that must be.
If reality were merely about any of us (even from our own point of view) it would in effect fragment into ever-more autistic self-absorbed fragments, held together only by whatever connections among us existed as legacies of other times.
That’s a way to see it.
Sometimes simple concepts are difficult to set forth, mostly because sequential logic of presentation – that is, language in 3D circumstances – starts you a long way off. And on that note, let’s pause for now. Remember, in journeys such as these, apparent distance covered is only one measure of progress. Difficulties overcome is another.
If you say so. Okay, till next time, and thanks as always.