Many things to do in the world

Thursday, December 13, 2018

4:30 a.m. Rather than try to do what I do not feel capable of doing, let’s do what we both know I can do. More on the subject of success and societies, please, unless you have something else in mind. That is, continuing from Sunday. My brother suggests more on the subject of overlapping societies.

Yes, that, as a subset of the larger topic. The challenge to outdated ways of thinking and being that marks your times. Again, it is not political or ideological in and of itself. As an example, a thought experiment. Suppose “liberal” or “conservative” values were to win the on-going tug of war, and therefore organized your society. (This example uses American politics but it will serve, with local variations, anywhere.) What happens on the day after?

This is an impossible example, isn’t it? The defeated qualities would continue to dissent and exist, if only underground. Plus, didn’t you point out that liberal and conservative are more mood than conviction?

Well, let’s say more innate temperament than intellectual conviction. Some people want to move fast, some slow; some emphasize conservation, others, reformation; some see bad where others see good – and this is so on every issue, and no one is entirely one or the other on every issue. You may call yourself conservative or liberal, but on another issue – in another part of your mind, in a sense – your natural place to stand may be with the “enemy.” A different group of your constituent strands will be in charge, so to speak. But suppose the issues settled, all of them, whether by force or by exhaustion or even by universal conviction. Then what? Do you suppose contention will have gone out of the world?

After the religious wars in Europe in the 1600s, people stopped trying to make Protestantism or Catholicism prevail, and accepted that neither was going to happen. Is that the kind of analogy you are drawing?

Notice that it fills our conditions, without an unreal perfection. That is, plenty of people were still bitterly divided in their hearts. Interfamily warfare – for that’s what it amounted to – continued and in some places continues to your own time, and is likely to continue beyond it. But outside of Ireland, where political and economic issues attach, who in your day is likely to enlist in a war of Catholics against Protestants per se? With all the ill-will in the world, haters cannot attach to that conflict. It doesn’t threaten.

In general.

With exceptions, as we said. But they are exceptions. Society readjusted to [religious] fragmentation.

In your times, people think they are fighting for freedom against present and future oppression. But that is how it always seems! Only, liberal fears center on economic oppression and conservative fears center on governmental oppression – except that each one would say –

Well, this isn’t the way to go about this, because it will only stir counter-argument. We can feel it in you even as you write.

Well, if I don’t agree with the specifics of a broad generalization –

Yes, so let’s do this instead. Let’s pretend one or the other “side” (which are coalitions rather than discrete bandings, despite what they think) overcomes the other. You won or you lost, but either way you have to live with the result. Now what?

First, I’d imagine, if you won, you’re going to be disappointed.

Yes, because reality is never logically neat and tidy. Successful coalitions immediately find the cracks in their supposed unity, and bitter accusations of treason and tyranny proceed to blossom. In that sense, the most extreme of the ideologues – the most unrelentingly logical, the least reality-bounded – always find that the war is not over, because of treason or at least fuzzy-mindedness within the successful ranks, which of course must be rooted out.

And if you lost, still you go on living.

So you put aside lost causes (or hug them to yourself in bitterness or mourning, preventing yourself from moving on) and concentrate on the parts of your life that you can control.

In either case, what had been a reason to live becomes a past reason to live. After a generation passes by, it is harder to continue to respond to “The Redcoats are coming! The Redcoats are coming!” It is no longer active; it is part of the history that shaped you, but it is not alive, it is not a day-to-day decision to be made, no matter how active a patriot or loyalist you were, or your parents were.

But if your psychological makeup no longer expresses through the old controversies, it will express nonetheless. Life always offers sides to choose among. After American independence, another generation fought among itself (or themselves) over the question of the relation of the new federal government to the pre-existing states, and then to the new states carved out of commonly owned territory, then to the new states made from newly acquired territory. But other controversies arose, as people adjusted to new conditions. Farmers v. commerce. Old ways and new. Industry, tariffs, banks, internal developments such as canals and then railroads. Eventually, monopolies, holding companies, trades unions. In other areas of life, slavery, women’s emancipation, various religious and secular experiments designed to overcome the shortcomings of the new society. And on and on. Life flows eternally, and nothing that is settled ever ends the flow of forces – nor would you want it to!

So, in your day, older issues all resurface in different forms, because although social preconditions change, human nature does not. And there is a reason why it does not: It depends not upon social conditions but upon the conditions of life.

If I see where you’re going with this, it somewhat contradicts your statement that human nature does not change.

Call that an inadequate preliminary statement. What we mean, as you know, is that human nature expresses differently in different conditions, which is the reason for having different civilizations. But within whose civilizations it does not change to any noticeable extent. Human nature is not “perfectible” in the way various hopeful reformers have assumed. And good that it is not! One man’s perfection is another man’s hell. Look to the record of the Soviet Union for an example of the logic behind attempting to force people into a mold. Similarly, people are not “homo economicus” as those who believe in only material forces believe and would like to try to demonstrate. As always, one size does not fit all.

Okay, I get it. You are edging toward pointing out that various people get their meaning in life from different things. So if their political or ideological cause is lost, they turn toward their deeper satisfactions.

Not “satisfactions” merely, but their deeper roots in this particular 3D life. Some may collect China dolls, or identify with their extended family, or lose themselves in this or that arcane or esoteric study, or perfect a skill, or concentrate on perfecting their own moral character. There are a million things to do in the world, and everybody can find one, or more.

Which doesn’t imply that everybody succeeds. Some may find their meaning in a bottle, or in drugs, or in this or that fanaticism, or in active pointless rebellion.

It’s all human; it is all expression.

And it’s okay with you.

Nothing is as clear-cut as it seems. That is why logical fanatics find the world so disappointing. Enough for now.

Our thanks as always.


One thought on “Many things to do in the world

  1. I love how your sources bring the factors of any given time down to life-as-lived: “It depends not upon social conditions but upon the conditions of life.” Of a given life–the “deeper roots in this particular 3D life.” Masterfully done.

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