Welcome to the Fold: Better Than Yesterday Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2013-11-17 03:00:00 No comments

George Orwell: Arthur Koestler

It is quite possible that man's major problems will never be solved. But it is also unthinkable! Who is there who dares to look at the world of today and say to himself, ‘It will always be like this: even in a million years it cannot get appreciably better?’ So you get the quasi-mystical belief that for the present there is no remedy, all political action is useless, but that somewhere in space and time human life will cease to be the miserable brutish thing it now is.

Who indeed would look at the world and suggest it could be no better? I doubt anyone does this consciously, but if they did, I imagine it would only be because they have a vested interest in keeping things exactly as they are.

Then again, the above-cited mystic's approach is no different in practical terms, is it? It's too easy to entertain a philosophy that insists you do nothing, and there are plenty of folks who are hoping you do as little as possible so they can keep sucking you dry.

(Side note: I sometimes get fed the line that Zen and Buddhism amount to that: Don't do anything. This typically comes from people who have swallowed the pop-psych version of those things, has their stomachs turned, and barfed them back out again. The point is not to do nothing, but rather to be comfortable with doing nothing -- or doing something -- whenever the moment demands it.)

A big part of why I started writing Welcome to the Fold was to confront the problem of how people choose to embody the future -- how they go about becoming the change they want to see in the world, as the saying goes. My thesis is that when they go about doing this on a personal level, when they focus on making themselves better people, their world becomes that much better by proxy. If they try to build a "better" society, that doesn't automatically produce better people -- because not everyone's idea of a "better" society matches up with their neighbors' ideas.

So, how to be a better person? Well, perhaps a template is in order -- a role model, some kind of example to follow. It sounds great in principle, but the problem with role models is that they exist just as much to be outgrown as they do to be followed. They're starting points, not destinations. They cannot be the whole of your truth. Outgrowing them is how you see what else is possible, other than what you were simply given.

Tags: Arthur Koestler George Orwell Welcome to the Fold