Friday, October 31, 2014

"The Unopen Mind, Or At Least Less Open Than I Thought It Was"

I am such an idiot!


This is a whole new area of idiocy.  Now you can feel superior to me in an entirely different arena. 

“It almost sounds like you’re bragging.”

That’s right.  I’m gunning to be the most disreputable blogger in the universe.



Okay.  This observation, as usual, is culled from a “Sampling of One” – which reminds me of the joke:

“He’s a self-made man.” 

“It’s true.  Nobody else would help.” 

My sampling is “One”, because I do not like to impose upon other people’s lives for my intellectual experiments.  So I stick to unilaterally imposing upon my own.

And this is what I have startlingly – and disappointingly – discovered.

I bought a book… wait, lemme say this first.  No, lemme start with the book thing first.  (Sorry for subjecting to that intrapersonal dustup.) 

I bought a book maybe six months ago that I read about in the Sunday New York Times Book Review section and it looked to be up my alley, so I Amazoned away for it. 

The book is 348 pages long.  And in the six months since I ordered it, I have only made it to Page 47. 

Okay, now the other thing. 

There is nothing I am less enthusiastic about than adversarialism.  The extremely popular “Us” versus “Them” configuration – countries, ethnicities, religions, (sometimes) genders, football rivalries.  Name two groups that have a reflexive enmity towards each other, and I am opposed to the entire operation.

I hate adversarialism the way Lou Grant hated spunk.  Although I have heard experts in my wife’s field of psychoanalysis assert that the adversarial attitude derives directly from our genetic wiring. 

Looking down on another group, they explain, maintains our own sense of superiority, or it makes us forget how much we dislike ourselves.   (Something in that area.  I have been known to fall asleep during the lectures.)

Conventional Wisdom:  There has always been adversarialism, and there always will be.  The best you can do, the psychoanalytical experts advise, is to acknowledge the reality of adversarialism, and to manage it as best as you can.  (Which probably meant staying out of Turkey for a little while, but we didn’t listen.)


So here’s a book – you remember the book? – entitled The Undivided Past (by David Cannadine.)  And the argument of this book – and the reason it originally caught my attention – is that the adversarial scenario of history has been disproportionately –  and deleteriously – overstated. 

I cannot tell you much more about it, because I am only on Page 47, so there’s, like, three hundred pages to go (although some of them are footnotes, and I’ll probably skip those.  Still, I am not that far into it.)

The book provides (lesserly publicized) examples from history, where ancient cultures and religions, theoretically committed to annihilating each other, instead, at times, actually cooperated.

And I think that’s the track the book will continue to follow, providing countervailing contradictions to the Conventional Wisdom, thus evidencing that people – making the late Rodney King smile in his posthumous locale – indeed can, in fact, all get along.

Why is it then generally accepted that we can’t?  Because, on numerous other occasions, we haven’t. 

See:  Every war that has ever been fought.  (Plus brothers, roughhousing for keeps.)

Maybe later in the book, there’ll be a statistical comparison – the proportion of times when we have gotten along compared to the proportional number of times when we haven’t.  Or maybe the book’s just arguing, with historical examples, that getting along is not entirely out of the question.  I don’t know because I’m only on page 47.

Now here’s my point. 

I am a confirmed enthusiast of non-adversarialism.  (I thought Ghandi had an attitude.  Ba-dump-bump.)  And yet, here is a book, whose argument I unequivocally support, and after a half-year’s passing…

I am still only on Page 47!


I guess because, deep down, I have this sneaking suspicion that the psychoanalyst experts are correct.  As reflected in Mel Brooks’s 2000-Year-Old Man cave anthem:

“Let ‘em all go to hell except Cave Seventy-Eight!”

Still, the situation is disturbing to me.  Here is a book providing evidence of my deeper down belief:  That adversarialism is not inevitable.

And I am unable to get through it.


It would appear it’s because I have this idea in my head that, though I wish it were otherwise, adversarialism is inevitable.

And I do not want to give it up.  (By risking exposing myself to contradictory evidence.)

This lead to this even more troubling concern:

There’s a book I agree with, and I can barely read it.

What then are my chances of reading a book that I don’t agree with?

(Side Note, And A Cautionary Warning To Writers:  Why do we believe adversarialism is inevitable?  One reason, at least:  Because “The Huguenots got along with the Jews” is not that interesting a story.  Thus, it did not appear prominently, if at all, in the history books.  The more electrifying history book stories, that we read and remember – collectively reinforce our adversarial expectations. 

(Note:  I do not know if the Huguenots actually did get along with the Jews.  I just pulled that example out of the air, and because I like the word Huguenots.  But I sure hope that they did.)

1 comment:

pumpkinhead said...

Think you answered your own question with the "not that interesting" thing. Maybe the book is just not that interesting.