Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I hardly dare approach this subject, which has been just about the greatest crapshoot in human history, at least until the invention of democracy, but approach it I must.

My son, now aged 53 and intellectually feisty, has asked me why the things in this blog were not offered to him long ago, at which time they might have been of more use. My first instinct was to tell him that he probably would have largely ignored them long ago, as the young sometimes do (and as he still does).


I recognize that my spontaneous answers are frequently too shallow, as this one was.

My thinking in the early morning hours, just before rising, tends to be better and I have given his question more thought recently. I do not mean in dreams, which frequently seem to be stupid ways of expressing anxieties but in a form of focused meditation without interruptions. The bottom line is that I was incapable of this blog long ago, for several reasons. I'll review them, one by one.

My father offered me nothing like this. He died when I was seventeen and, being self taught, he was too involved in nineteenth century German philosophy to understand the limited significance of complex linguistic constructions in philosophic systems. His main contribution was to instill in me an interest in science, for which I am grateful. He did not prepare me for parenthood. Regrettably, he was not prepared himself.

Much real world understanding comes from hard knocks. Frequently, hard knocks do not result in wisdom but they seem to be prerequisite. When intelligent people live sufficiently sheltered lives, their opinions tend to be complacent, smug, and even silly. On the other hand, even thoughtful people are usually too preoccupied by hard knocks to generalize their ideas in real time. I was. Only since my retirement from corporate serfdom have I had the leisure and the inclination to do this.

The world has changed a great deal during my lifetime. Science, in particular, has advanced markedly. The simple, deterministic Newtonian universe has been changed by relativity, quantum theory, fundamental particle theory, dark matter, dark energy and string theory. The life sciences have also progressed dramatically in diverse fields such as biochemistry, genetics, and the neurology of the central nervous system. These things have not told us definitively what we are and what our universe is but they have greatly expanded my perceptions. These perceptions were not available in the past.

Change is not entirely friendly. I took form in the womb of a different America, a different world, a different time and I miss it poignantly like a long lost love.

Goodnight Sweet Princess

I miss the optimism of American industry before globalization and Wall Street together developed a model of privilege called the "ownership society" and I miss the majestic power of the old steam engines. I am a small child again gazing up at the magnificent iron horse, listening to the hissing cloud of steam and the first few powerful strokes as it began pulling the old train. You may find that emotional dissonance hard to understand but I have found what has happened to us disconcerting. How can I prepare anyone to accept the future, in which change will be more rapid?

Wabash Cannonball

City of New Orleans

Changes in technology have also opened up the possibilities of electronic publication. Working with this medium and having the hypertext capability of including links in my text and of seeking facts in Google have changed writing from a chore to a world of fun. The blog medium was not available during my working years.

Given all of these problems, how can I characterize the most pressing need?

It seems that our formative evolutionary forces have focused upon the two basic needs: survival and reproduction. Although evolution is slow by human standards, the species that can evolve and adapt to changing conditions most rapidly are the ones that are likely to change and persist in new forms. Consequently, each human life is granted a very thin slice of eternity and the reproductive period is even shorter. The pace of cultural evolution is much faster than genetic evolution.. It follows that we are never sufficiently evolved to have adapted to the current culture. At a time when advanced social, political and economic skills are vitally important many of us are still better adapted to be hunter-gatherers. That is a good definition of Hell and we are living it.

Absent genetic fitness, good parenting and education are needed urgently but they are not here yet. Parents are too young and frequently also too immature themselves. For many of us, senility preempts maturity. Education is very much in need of reform and progress. Where is the redemptive vision?

No comments:

Post a Comment