A Great Machine

An ideal’s longevity is based not on its truth or nobility, but on its innate defense against corruption. This is an interesting attitude to have as it runs contrary to the belief that “truth will have its day” or that “love conquers all.” Every idea that man creates and pursues will have, built in to it, mechanisms that defend against the “corruption” of the idea. Corruption in this sense can simply be defined as the acknowledgment of other ideas that are contrary. As an example, the ideal of freedom is protected and fostered by the mechanisms of a free press, personal property, etc.
This idea of mechanisms designed to defend ideas does not require a judgment on whether the said ideas are true or even based in fact. It simply serves as a device to introduce the next part of my analogy. If those mechanisms can be thought of as gears which, in their turning, drive our daily actions, then each person’s mind as a whole can be thought of as a great machine which is, throughout the great journey of life, trying to find the best configuration of gears.
Society also functions this way. Each idea has its adherents, each religion its followers, each industry its own wants and needs. Every system in society has its own “gears” that support and drive it. In many cases the mechanisms that form around concepts are neutral, serving only to protect the idea they surround. But sometimes the mechanisms can interfere with or directly attack the mechanisms of another idea. For example, in older times arranged marriages were common (and still are in some areas of the world). These marriages existed as a mechanism to maintain the power of the family. Heads of households would make matches for their sons and daughters to improve bloodlines, consolidate power, gain wealth and prestige, etc. The mechanism of marriage defended the all importance of the family. This mechanism came into conflict with the growing idea of freedom of choice in love, the idea that you should be able to choose who you want to be espoused to.
What arises then is a system in which the ideals and beliefs that society as a whole subscribes to are in constant friction with each other’s defensive mechanisms, like two gears that don’t fit. This is distinctly apparent in today’s political and social debates. The two major political parties in America have ideas and values which are so different from one another that many times the outward expression of those values clash and grind together in a most distressing way. We each try and fit the gears together in a configuration where they complement each other in some places, or simply don’t encounter any resistance in other places. Sometimes certain gears are even discarded entirely in our vision of this “great machine”, when judged to be completely incompatible with any others.
When seen in this light all the conflict that arises between humans is the result of us trying to either uphold a mechanism or tear one down. Each of us has an idea, no matter how rough or abstract, of how we think the gears should fit together. To carry this analogy even further, some gears appear to our eyes to be inferior to others. Some gears are clearly flawed or if used would cause damage to others. This is “truth” and “falsehood.” What we see as truthful has a place, what we see as false does not. How we see those gears all depends on what purpose we think the greater machine ought to have.
So where does this leave us? When considering new ideas we should look at all the turning gears and effects that the idea has on the greater system. Does what we think we know really fit with our core beliefs? Do the policies we support and the daily actions we take mesh well with other ideas we see as truthful?
It is said that we should judge people not on their words but their actions. I think it should be the same with concepts, ideas, beliefs, and philosophies. Look at the fruit that these things produce. Look at the mechanisms that drive them. Do we protect certain ideas we have because that is simply what we have always done or is it because we have actually examined them for ourselves. Are they a good influence on the greater “machine” or do they produce a negative effect?
The questions that arise as we see the world as a product of the interaction of ideas is important. It allows us to strips away much of the emotional baggage that too often clogs good, intellectual thought and makes us look at the foundations of life on this planet. The foundations are key, because without a firm foundation what can we possibly build that will stand? Without a societal “machine” that is not constantly striving to become more efficient how can anything be achieved?


Culture Blindness

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Indiana and his companions are searching for one of the clues that will lead them to the holy grail they go to a library and look for symbols to help them on their journey. They find two of the symbols-Roman numerals- but are stumped when searching for the numeral ten (X). It is only when Indiana looks from a higher perspective that they see that they have been standing on a giant X the entire time.

I think it is that way in society as well. Mankind is constantly looking to grow and become better, but how can we be sure that our choices and the directions we decide to go in are correct? I heard the phrase “cultural growth” recently, and although I don’t remember the source it got me thinking. What defines growth? How can one be sure that a culture is headed in the right direction and the supposed growth is not the beginnings of a cancerous tumor?

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that culture or society should remain stagnant and unchanging. Without considering other ways of doing things and integrating new ideas a nation cannot survive, especially in the modern world with its free flow of information. It is simply interesting to note how cultural critics and progressive thinkers are so positive that the changes that they seek are correct.

History can shed some light on the impact of man’s choices upon his environment. Lessons of the past inform us of mistakes in theories and actions. Without historical examples to point to, how would we even know where we stand in regards to liberty, equality, enlightened thinking, and moral standards?

However even history fails in the end. Every situation is unique; every people instilled with a different set of values and expectations. Technology and what we know about the universe is changing every day. People are deluged with a flood of conflicting information without compass or guide to determine what is true or noble. In a certain sense we are more blind now than all our ancestors were. Despite the amazing advancement the human race has undergone in the past 200 years we still can’t look beyond the present with any certainty. No one can know for certain the long term effects of daily events, and unlike Indiana Jones we cannot simply get a “better view.”

I say this not to be pessimistic, but simply as an observation. Before we commit to a course of action we should think about the consequences to ourselves, loved ones, and our fellow human beings. As only the long, backward gaze of history, and ultimately the wisdom of God can show us the right or wrong of our decisions I think we owe it to both of them to be as responsible and as careful as we can.


The Personal Manifesto

Holy wow its been a long time since I posted! My apologies friends, I did not foresee my writing apathy would extend beyond my schoolwork. It is a depressing feeling being so sick of writing papers, book reports, and target market summaries that it affects my passion for my other writing projects.

Thankfully now I am done with school for the summer, and I have many ambitious plans for spending my time. First of all I’m going to start posting more on this blog. Although my recent writing inclinations have leaned towards the political and religious I will spare everyone the task of slogging through those types of posts. I think that the work I do in that vein will be mostly for myself, a way of getting my thoughts in order and bringing in references and a sense of concreteness to my ideology.

To me the concept of a manifesto is one I associate with Communism or hippies trying to “fight the system, man”. But now that I think about it, I don’t think there are enough manifestos out there. Not the kind that you print out at Kinko’s and hand out on your local college campus, but a more personal document. A list of your beliefs, views, and hopes for the future.

When you are forced to write down what you believe and find support for it, you begin to get a better grasp of your own thought processes and ca match up new information with what you hold to be true. Part of the reason that I think so many people today are adrift in the ocean of their own lives is that they don’t know what to believe or why to believe it. Everything is based on emotion; it’s about what makes them feel good at the moment.

Maybe I will share this document here when it is finished, but the primary motivation is personal. I don’t intend to convince anyone with this document or start any debates. I think of it as an exploration in rhetoric, a research project, and above all a statement of personal doctrine.

Wish me luck!