Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Beautiful lofty things

It is curious how often it seems necessary to hold a one sided, impossibly rosy view of the human nature in order to have progressive views of society and history – and how often it is seen reasonable that just to show otherwise is enough to disprove this progressivism. Certainly there is much else in us than just pure drives towards understanding, harmony and reason: there are dark, atavistic, animal impulses in the depths of all our minds. A large part of our integral experience is completely amoral. Our conscious being is ephemeral, disjointed, our experience far from unified, we exist only partially and are only too often panicky, fearful and aggressive, powered by ancient reflexes for flight or fight. There are grasping, ugly creatures within all of us, waiting for their chance to emerge and take control.

These instincts can’t be denied or willed out of existence (and it would be disastrous to even try), but all the same, their mere existence is surely no argument. We do have countering forces, intelligence, will to meaning and understanding, instincts for protection and solidarity, for beauty and truth, moments of coherence. We remain poised, seeing far beyond the prison walls, a kind of experiment: what will once emerge out of these disjointed beings? I would not think that this disharmony, this uneasy equilibrium would be satisfactory as a permanent solution, as much edge as it does give to our wild, untamed lives.

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