The Irony Of Experience
by David Eide .

All is recoverable; this is the good news. All of the wasted judgment which thieves energy and dislodges the self as it launches on whatever destiny awaits is recovered. There is a brief moment of sorrow that one's energy was not employed more intelligently at a younger age. That one did not know at 22 or even 27 what one knows at 37. But this moment passes.

Experience looks in equal measures back from the moment of awareness and the kinds of and levels of awareness, to the idiocies and joys and so on. This becomes raw material for whatever imaginary deals await. One sits here, at this moment, in this time, occurring in this space and no other in terms of conscious awareness. Things are occurring in the world at this moment and every subsequent moment that I am aware of. My awareness is enriched by this type of knowledge and the method I used to perceive that knowledge of the world. And this opens out into the future. The horizon widens; the pain and awkwardness of the past recedes. I not only have knowledge but desire as well. All of this is recoverable if one trusts the essential resources of the human being.

I read about 1531. I read words that effected people of that time. People who pondered on those words and were influenced by them. I am suddenly immersed in 1531, not as a single point of some historical continuum but as a living plasm. It's a breathing period of time in which I could, without too much difficulty, live in. It would be strange to adapt to King-rule. It would be difficult to adapt to the hardships daily visited on one and all, even the king. But I could easily see myself sitting by a candlelight, foul stench in my nose, indigestion in the belly, pock-marked women walking around me, reading the same book that I am reading, 450 years after the fact. And I could see myself being very confused about things for quite a while. What is all this building about? The body lives, the body dies, what happens for this to happen? What are these feelings of loss I feel when I perceive this? And I could see these answers being answered, silently by the custom and tradition of the land.

I immerse myself in this. I no longer feel alienated from the year 1531 nor the ambient time on either side of it. Blood relations of mine existed during this time. A hundred years after this date a fellow who is a direct, blood relation comes to America and he I feel I know with great intimacy.

I shake myself of this reverie. I go outside into the night and what greets me is the roar of jet engines several thousand feet above me and a pair of headlights cutting down the hillside road.

Could the man of 1531 adapt to this period of time? Only with great difficulty. Eventually he could, just as we have to. Eventually he would learn how to drive, he would fly in the jets to distant places, he would flick on the television set and watch the sporting event, he would be pleased by how healthy and good the people looked, how much more easy they appeared to have it. He would have to adapt to the size of the cities. Unless he had recourse to study the city he would be swallowed by it like recent immigrants are. He would no doubt be impressed by the tremendous harnessing of raw material toward specific ends. In fact, the illusion would be created in his mind that nothing is impossible, that men and women have entered into an unchallengeable epoch.

He would be shown men walking on the moon and the atomic bomb and its effect and declare out loud, "the gods have come to Earth to live! Or the devils!" And all of his former beliefs, all of his carefully learned habits of thought would dissolve and he would laugh uproariously at the pretensions of his fellow creatures of 1531. "Why they thought they knew everything and, in reality, they knew nothing- even the kings and priests!"

Perhaps further down the line you would see the poor guy running wildly through the streets, stopping some innocuous looking man and shaking him, "What is next, tell me, you know. What is next in the scale of things?" And they would lock him up as incurably insane.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Everything must be re-defined. And for that to occur there must be a perspective formed from the experience of the time and not to the experience of the men and women of 1531 or 100AD or 530BC. A perspective that knows nuclear power, space travel, mass communication, and relative political and economic freedom.

What is often forgotten is the common knowledge needed to know how everything is operating. How is the law made? How is the law enforced? What are the lines of responsibility drawn from different points of authority? What are the diversions of the people? How are its products made? How are the products sold? What are the major projects of the society? What are its relations to the rest of the world? These, among others are some general questions that you pose to the common knowledge of the society.

What is the general relation to questions of eternity? What is the general relation to questions of philosophy? Questions raised by conflict, questions raised about the human prospect. Where is the human prospect heading? What are its discernable goals? Why do we allow figures of authority to describe and define these goals?

What are some of the projects, technical and social of the past 30 years?

  • Nuclear power
  • Federal highway system
  • Civil Rights
  • Computer
  • Space exploration
  • Welfare state
  • Energy production
  • collective health and well-being.

These among others; the overarching project is political liberty and the on-going project of political democracy and the institutions that provide stability. That includes the processes through which conflict can be mediated and the political life that surrounds it. Ironically the more you deepen your knowledge in this area the better off you are. And yet, it can be a veritable albatross. It really gets more and more complex without any corollary meaning. Complexity without meaning always spells danger for the health of the institution.

Once you grasp the essentials a little bit or have confidence in those essentials then you can venture out and communicate with people whose interest and intelligence is on the same approximate level. Test ideas, mix ideas, and communicate difficult ideas. That's the next step.


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