Monday, November 28, 2011

Pilgrimages in our Future?

Notions like “dilution of culture” need parsing. We’re awed by massive powers in our time and march around with anxious eyes glancing at such ephemera as The Economy or The Culture. Sometimes useful insights just roll out of the fingers and I don’t realize their utility until I’ve read what has just “happened.” A phrase like that came the other day. “Experience is sovereign, of course,” I typed, “whereas the objective is just statistics.” That translates into the obvious, but the obvious is sometimes novel.

The Economy is getting, holding a decent job. One job. I am a carrier of culture. Whatever values of the past I actually embody, have at my fingertips, and permit to guide my behavior, that is culture. “Dilution of culture” therefore means loss of values in individuals by generational change. By whatever mechanism. Culture is lost when parents or education fail individuals, when distractions overcome them. It matters—at the individual level. When we extend it and speak of phenomena in general, we mean “on average,” and that’s just statistics. That is why vast up-swells of activism deceive both those who participate in them as well as to those who merely  watch and think that they’re beholding change. The activists intend to change others. Meanwhile those actions that actually improve the lot of individuals—say creating one or two jobs in efforts to implement a good product useful to others or grasping something by effort and thus illuminating a single person’s understanding—they remain invisible.

Not all collective movements have this useless character. I’m now thinking of great pilgrimages—going on these we intend to change us. 

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