Sunday. December 16, 2018
[Written at my daughter’s house, where I had spent the night.]
7 a.m. You’re up to bat, if you’re available.
Usually available on our end. Do you have energy enough and tranquility enough?
You mean, because I am not in my house, and don’t know if others will get up while I am in midstream?
In general. You remind others that many factors may interfere with communication. So, we remind you.
I think we’re good.
Let us proceed, then. The overarching theme is that societies change, and those changes interact with individual potential, and new individuals change society as well. It is a continuing interactive process, sometimes so slow-moving as to appear glacial or even non-existent; other times, changes come in torrents, and old people look in bewilderment at a landscape unrecognizably different from the one they grew up in. Not only are institutions and mores changed, but the very nature of their children and grandchildren is alien to them. Your grandparents experienced it.
Doesn’t any generation, that lives long enough?
You are reading the Adams-Jefferson letters. They comment on the changes in the social situation, but does it seem to you that they saw people as having changed?
Very much the opposite. These two literate, classically trained men of the world – and Abigail Adams, who contributed to the dialog – saw human nature as intractable, for better or worse. Any changes they noticed, they ascribed to the influence of a new society that they had helped to emerge from its European background.
So even in an era of revolutionary change, changes in human nature may not be obvious; may not exist. But sometimes they do occur, slowly or quickly, and you see the differences between what men can and chose to believe between one era and another. An ancient Roman might not have felt terribly out of place technologically in the Middle Ages, say, but he would have had a hard time encompassing its mind-set. And the disparity increases and the time-lag shortens, as you near your present moment.
With outliers in all times, presumably, of course. There are always forerunners and throwbacks. But the mass is fairly compact for any given time and place. Even if it is a jangled mass – New York City in its immigrant-packed heyday in the late 19th century, say – that jangled mass is coherent in itself, as self-coherent as miles of Iowa cornfields and villages, say, or California boomtowns, or New England fishing towns. And it is the same in your time, only the congruence in your day is and has been change. In some eras, change occurs slowly and continuity is more obvious. But in yours, continuity scarcely is visible. What is continuous is the flow..
Now, our point here is simple, because you will not be long uninterrupted this morning: Change is good, continuity is good, and everyone welcomes each in different proportions, and differently in different mental contexts. So – liberal or conservative, depending upon the issue, depending upon the time of day, depending upon one’s family traditions of thought and emotion. It is not a war of different kinds of people, though it is somewhat a war of perceptions. Rearrange your political thinking – said to one and all, of course, not particularly to you, Frank – and your view of the world and the society’s possibilities changes accordingly.
If I hear your subtext, you are saying we can’t really afford to continue to consider politics and psychology and metaphysics etc. as separate subjects without application one to the other.
Well, you can’t understand what you firmly mis-understand, and if you cannot see the connections, you will be bewildered, frightened, disoriented, perhaps despairing, anyway. Sound like any society you know?
And more so every year.
The readjustment pains are necessary. The extreme disorientation and accompanying fear are not; they will increase or decrease according to people’s level of understanding of what is going on.
Only, I can’t see much – oh.
Exactly. Spell it out a little.
Understandings cascade down into society from a few – maybe originally from only one, though that is more appearance than reality – to a larger few, then a larger few yet. That is, understandings diffuse into societies in an organic rather than in a random way.
And this takes time, and is assisted by the existence of societies.
Moral of the story being –?
Ripples in a pond.
That won’t do. Nice image, but still too cryptic and somewhat misleading.
Okay. This ties in to your previous statement about society having many ways for people to associate. We were talking of it in context of ways for an individual to have a place. Now we’re looking at it as the way the individual moves society.
Yes, and you’d better hope you aren’t interrupted soon! This requires expansion.
Well. Go ahead, and we’ll see.
Esoteric societies move society in general in ways individuals working alone can’t. How? By using magical powers directly? By exerting occult influences on the minds of society’s movers and shakers?
I don’t know, but when you posed the question, I thought of Dion Fortune saying (through her character Morgan LeFay, who does work mostly alone) that to enter new ideas into the mind of humanity, you must live them, not merely speak them.
A part of living your highest truths is living in the world as it is, living your life where and when you are. How else can a body function, save in time and space? How else can one person influence another, save through what he or she is?
Not, also, what he or she does? Says? Preaches? Teaches?
Do they not flow from what s/he is?
What of the solitary hermit in the desert?
The fact that you even heard of them shows you that they had their influence, and not the influence they sought, necessarily, but the influence that proceeded from what they did, or said – that is, ultimately, from what they were. It is Emerson’s mousetrap.
Emerson said if somebody invents a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to his door even if he lives out in the woods somewhere. But the mousetrap can’t quite be said to proceed from what the man was, can it? Or – can it? I guess the lightbulb came because of what Edison was, which led to what he did. Are we wandering, here?
Only if you lose the thread, which is, how individuals transmit change to the world around them. Even on the most mundane subject – light bulbs, mousetraps – you can see, if you have eyes to see it, that individuals cannot function without others. What good would it to do invent the lightbulb if there were none to provide the raw materials, none to assemble it, none to sell the concept and finance the initial capital requirements, none to string the wires and build the generators and produce the lamps, etc., etc.? and this is a mundane example. Jefferson constructed the moldboard plow by applying mathematics to a practical problem. Where did he get his knowledge of mathematics, if not from his teachers?
But – if you are eager to change what people can be (to remove previous limits and set new ones) – you can’t do it alone any more than inventors can acquire and make practical their bright ideas. The specifics of what kinds of help you require are different, but the situation is the same otherwise.
My friend Dana Redfield said (I think in her novel Jonah) “no one crosses alone.”
And we could expand that to say, no one even exists alone. Be you ever so solitary – even lonely – you can’t possibly be alone in the largest sense, because you exist as a community, in a community, therefore for a community.
To paraphrase Mr. Lincoln, it is a matter of the enlightenment of the people, by the people, for the people.
Yes. It is not a few high priests enlightening the masses. The absolute differences between the most and the least “enlightened” is relatively small. How could it be otherwise, given that you (we) are all one? You see how correcting a perception results in further rethinking?
I do. And since I hear stirrings upstairs (not to speak of Upstairs J) shall we wrap it up by bringing us back to where we started?
Diffusion through successive rings will have to come at another time.
Very well. Thanks for all this. Do you get overtime for working Sunday mornings?
You are aware, we trust, that every wisecrack and response is only so many more words to transcribe.
Smiling. Next time.