Monthly Archives: December 2009

Fourmilog Reading List – 23 Nov 2009

Meyer, Stephen C. Signature in the Cell. New York: HarperCollins, 2009. ISBN 978-0-06-147278-7.

At last we have a book which squarely takes on the central puzzle of the supposedly blind, purposeless universe to which so many scientists presently ascribe the origin of life on Earth. There’s hardly any point debating evolution: it can be demonstrated in the laboratory. (Some may argue that Spiegelman’s monster is an example of devolution, but recall that evolutionists must obligately eschew teleology, so selection in the direction of simplicity and rapid replication is perfectly valid, and evidenced by any number of examples in bacteria.)No, the puzzle—indeed, the enigma— is the origin of the first replicator. Once you have a self-replicating organism and a means of variation (of which many are known to exist), natural selection can kick in and, driven by the environment and eventually competition with other organisms, select for more complexity when it confers an adaptive advantage. But how did the first replicator come to be?

In the time of Darwin, the great puzzle of biology was the origin of the apparently designed structures in organisms and the diversity of life, not the origin of the first cell. For much of Darwin’s life,spontaneous generation was a respectable scientific theory, and the cell was thought to be an amorphous globule of a substance dubbed “protoplasm”, which one could imagine as originating at random through chemical reactions among naturally occurring precursor molecules.

The molecular biology revolution in the latter half of the twentieth century put the focus squarely upon the origin of life. In particular, the discovery of the extraordinarily complex digital code of the genome in DNA, the supremely complex nanomachinery of gene expression (more than a hundred proteins are involved in the translation of DNA to proteins, even in the simplest of bacteria), and the seemingly intractable chicken and egg problem posed by the fact that DNA cannot replicate its information without the proteins of the transcription mechanism, while those proteins cannot be assembled without the precise sequence information provided in the DNA, definitively excluded all scenarios for the origin of life through random chemical reactions in a “warm pond”.

As early as the 1960s, those who approached the problem of the origin of life from the standpoint of information theory and combinatorics observed that something was terribly amiss. Even if you grant the most generous assumptions: that every elementary particle in the observable universe is a chemical laboratory randomly splicing amino acids into proteins every Planck time for the entire history of the universe, there is a vanishingly small probability that even a single functionally folded protein of 150 amino acids would have been created. Now of course, elementary particles aren’t chemical laboratories, nor does peptide synthesis take place where most of the baryonic mass of the universe resides: in stars or interstellar and intergalactic clouds. If you look at the chemistry, it gets even worse—almost indescribably so: the precursor molecules of many of these macromolecular structures cannot form under the same prebiotic conditions—they must be catalysed by enzymes created only by preexisting living cells, and the reactions required to assemble them into the molecules of biology will only go when mediated by other enzymes, assembled in the cell by precisely specified information in the genome.

So, it comes down to this: Where did that information come from? The simplest known free living organisms (although you may quibble about this, given that it’s a parasite) has a genome of 582,970 base pairs, or about one megabit (assuming two bits of information for each nucleotide, of which there are four possibilities). Now, if you go back to the universe of elementary particle Planck time chemical labs and work the numbers, you find that in the finite time our universe has existed, you could have produced about 500 bits of structured, functional information by random search. Yet here we have a minimal information string which is (if you understand combinatorics) so indescribably improbable to have originated by chance that adjectives fail.

What do I mean by “functional information”? Just information which has a meaning expressed in a separate domain than its raw components. For example, the information theoretic entropy of a typical mountainside is as great (and, in fact, probably greater) than that of Mount Rushmore , but the latter encodes functional (or specified) information from a separate domain: that of representations of U.S. presidents known from other sources. Similarly, a DNA sequence which encodes a protein which folds into a form which performs a specific enzymatic function is vanishingly improbable to have originated by chance, and this has been demonstrated by experiment. Without the enzymes in the cell, in fact, even if you had a primordial soup containing all of the ingredients of functional proteins, they would just cross-link into non-functional goo, as nothing would prevent their side chains from bonding to one another. Biochemists know this, which is why they’re so sceptical of the glib theories of physicists and computer scientists who expound upon the origin of life.

Ever since Lyell, most scientists have accepted the principle of uniformitarianism, which holds that any phenomenon we observe in nature today must have been produced by causes we observe in action at the present time. Well, at the present time, we observe many instances of complex, structured, functional encoded data with information content in excess of 500 bits: books, music, sculpture, paintings, integrated circuits, machines, and even this book review. And to what cause would the doctrinaire uniformitarian attribute all of this complex, structured information? Well, obviously, the action of an intelligent agent: intelligent design.

Once you learn to recognise it, the signatures are relatively easy to distinguish. When you have a large amount of Shannon information, but no function (for example, the contour of a natural mountainside, or a random bit string generated by radioactive decay ), then chance is the probable cause. When you have great regularity (the orbits of planets, or the behaviour of elementary particles), then natural law is likely to govern. As Jacques Monod observed, most processes in nature can be attributed to Chance and Necessity , but there remain those which do not, with which archaeologists, anthropologists, and forensic scientists, among others, deal with every day.

Beyond the dichotomy of chance and necessity (or a linear combination of the two), there’s the trichotomy which admits intelligent design as a cause. An Egyptologist who argued that plate tectonics was responsible for the Great Sphinx of Giza would be laughed out of the profession. And yet, when those who observe information content in the minimal self-replicating organism hundreds of orders of magnitude less likely than the Sphinx having been extruded from a volcanic vent infer evidence of intelligent design of that first replicator, they are derided and excluded from scientific discourse.

What is going on here? I would suggest there is a dogma being enforced with the same kind of rigour as the Darwinists impute to their fundamentalist opponents. In every single instance in the known universe, with the sole exception of the genome of the minimal self-replicating cell and the protein machinery which allows it to replicate, when we see 500 bits or more of functional complexity, we attribute it to the action of an intelligent agent. You aren’t likely to see a CSI episode where one of the taxpayer-funded sleuths attributes the murder to a gun spontaneously assembling due to quantum fluctuations and shooting “the vic” through the heart. And yet such a Boltzmann gun is thousands of orders of magnitude more probable than a minimal genetic code and transcription apparatus assembling by chance in proximity to one another in order to reproduce.

Opponents of intelligent design hearts’ go all pitty-pat because they consider it (gasp) religion. Nothing could be more absurd. Francis Crick (co-discoverer of the structure of DNA) concluded that the origin of life on Earth was sufficiently improbable that the best hypothesis was that it had been seeded here deliberately by intelligent alien lifeforms. These creatures, whatever their own origins, would have engineered their life spores to best take root in promising environments, and hence we shouldn’t be surprised to discover our ancestors to have been optimised for our own environment. One possibility (of which I am fond) is that our form of life is the present one in a “chain of life” which began much closer to the Big Bang. One can imagine life, originating at the quark-gluon plasma phase or in the radiation dominated universe, and seeing the end of their dominion approaching, planting the seeds of the next form of life among their embers. Dyson, Tipler, and others have envisioned the distant descendants of humanity passing on the baton of life to other lifeforms adapted to the universe of the far future. Apply the Copernican principle: what about our predecessors?

Or consider my own favourite hypothesis of origin, that we’re living in a simulation. I like to think of our Creator as a 13 year old superbeing who designed our universe as a science fair project. I have written before about the clear signs accessible to experiment which might falsify this hypothesis but which, so far, are entirely consistent with it. In addition, I’ve written about how the multiverse model is less parsimonious than the design hypothesis.

In addition to the arguments in that paper, I would suggest that evidence we’re living in a simulation is that we find, living within it, complex structured information which we cannot explain as having originated by the physical processes we discover within the simulation. In other words, we find there has been input of information by the intelligent designer of the simulation, either explicitly as genetic information, or implicitly in terms of fine-tuning of free parameters of the simulated universe so as to favour the evolution of complexity. If you were creating such a simulation (or designing a video game), wouldn’t you fine tune such parameters and pre-specify such information in order to make it “interesting”?

Look at it this way. Imagine you were a sentient character in a video game. You would observe that the “game physics” of your universe was finely tuned both in the interest of computability but also to maximise the complexity of the interactions of the simulated objects. You would discover that your own complexity and that of the agents with which you interact could not be explained by the regularities of the simulation and the laws you’d deduced from them, and hence appeared to have been put in from the outside by an intelligent designer bent on winning the science fair by making the most interesting simulation. Being intensely rationalistic, you’d dismiss the anecdotal evidence for the occasional miracle as the pimple-faced Creator tweaked this or that detail to make things more interesting and thus justify an A in Miss O’Neill’s Creative Cosmology class. And you’d be wrong.

Once we have discovered we’re living in a simulation and inferred, from design arguments, that we’re far from the top level, all of this will be obvious, but hey, if you’re reading it here for the first time, welcome to the revelation of what’s going on. Opponents of intelligent design claim it’s “not science” or “not testable”. Poppycock—here’s ascience fiction story about how conclusive evidence for design might be discovered. Heck, you can go looking for it yourself!

This is an essential book for anybody interested in the origin of life on Earth. The author is a supporter of the hypothesis of intelligent design (as am I, although I doubt we would agree on any of the details). Regardless of what you think about the issue of origins, if you’re interested in the question, you really need to know the biochemical details discussed here, and the combinatorial impossibility of chance assembly of even a single functionally folded protein in our universe in the time since the Big Bang.

I challenge you to read this and reject the hypothesis of intelligent design. If you reject it, then show how your alternative is more probable. I fully accept the hypothesis of intelligent design and have since I concluded more than a decade ago it’s more probable than not that we’re living in a simulation. We owe our existence to the Intelligent Designer who made us to be amusing. Let’s hope she wins he Science Fair and doesn’t turn it off!

Advertisements

Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman

.
.
.
.
Chapter 6

The Master Aptitude
.
.
.
.
What seems to set apart those at the very top of competitive pursuits from others of roughly equal ability is the degree to which, beginning early in life, they can pursue an arduous practice routine for years and years. And that doggedness depends on emotional traits-enthusiasm and persistence in the face of setbacks-above all else.

The added payoff for life success from motivation, apart from other innate abilities, can be seen in the remarkable performance of Asian students in American schools and professions. One thorough review of the evidence suggests that Asian-American children may have an average IQ advantage over whites of just two or three points. Yet on the basis of the professions, such as law and medicine, that many Asian-Americans end up in, as a group they behave as though their IQ were much higher-the equivalent of an IQ of 110 for Japanese-Americans and of 120 for Chinese Americans. The reason seems to be that from the earliest years of school, Asian children work harder than whites. Sanford Dorenbusch, a Stanford sociologist who studied more than ten thousand high-school students, found that Asian-Americans spent 40 percent more time doing homework than did other students. “While most American parents are willing to accept a child’s weak areas and emphasize the strengths, for Asians, the attitude is that if you’re not doing well, the answer is to study later at night, and if you still don’t do well, to get up and study earlier in the morning. They believe that anyone can do well in school with the right effort.” In short, a strong cultural work ethic translates into higher motivation, zeal, and persistence-an emotional edge.

To the degree that our emotions get in the way of or enhance our ability to think and plan, to pursue training for a distant goal, to solve problems and the like, they define the limits of our capacity to use our innate mental abilities, and so determine how we do in life. And to the degree to which we are motivated by feelings of enthusiasm and pleasure in what we door even by an optimal degree of anxiety-they propel us to accomplishment. It is in this sense that emotional intelligence is a master aptitude, a capacity that profoundly affects all other abilities, either facilitating or interfering with them.

Impulse Control: The Marshmallow Test

Just imagine you’re four years old, and someone makes the following proposal: If you’ll wait until after he runs an errand, you can have two marshmallows for a treat. If you can’t wait until then, you can have only one-but you can have it right now. It is a challenge sure to try the soul of any four year-old, a microcosm of the eternal battle between impulse and restraint, id and ego, desire and self-control, gratification and delay. Which of these choices a child makes is a telling test; it offers a quick reading not just of character, but of the trajectory that child will probably take through life.

There is perhaps no psychological skill more fundamental than resisting impulse. It is the root of all emotional self-control, since all emotions, by their very nature, lead to one or another impulse to act. The root meaning of the word emotion, remember, is “to move.” The capacity to resist that impulse to act, to squelch the incipient movement, most likely translates at the level of brain function into inhibition of limbic signals to the motor cortex, though such an interpretation must remain speculative for now.

At any rate, a remarkable study in which the marshmallow challenge was posed to four-year-olds shows just how fundamental is the ability to restrain the emotions and so delay impulse. Begun by psychologist Walter Mischel during the 1960s at a preschool on the Stanford University campus and involving mainly children of Stanford faculty, graduate students, and other employees, the study tracked down the four-year-olds as they were graduating from high school.

Some four-year-olds were able to wait what must surely have seemed an endless fifteen to twenty minutes for the experimenter- to return. To sustain themselves in their struggle they covered their eyes so they wouldn’t have to stare at temptation, or rested their heads in their arms, talked to themselves, sang, played games with their hands and feet, even tried to go to sleep. These plucky preschoolers got the two-marshmallow reward. But others, more impulsive, grabbed the one marshmallow, almost always within seconds of the experimenter’s leaving the room on his “errand.”

The diagnostic power of how this moment of impulse was handled became clear some twelve to fourteen years later, when these same children were tracked down as adolescents. The emotional and social difference between the grab-the-marshmallow preschoolers and their gratification delaying peers was dramatic. Those who had resisted temptation at four were now, as adolescents, more socially competent: personally effective, self-assertive, and better able to cope with the frustrations of life. They were less likely to go to pieces, freeze, or regress under stress, or become rattled and disorganized when pressured; they embraced challenges and pursued them instead of giving up even in the face of difficulties; they were self-reliant and confident, trustworthy and dependable; and they took initiative and plunged into projects. And, more than a decade later, they were still able to delay gratification in pursuit of their goals.

The third or so who grabbed for the marshmallow, however, tended to have fewer of these qualities, and shared instead a relatively more troubled psychological portrait. In adolescence they were more likely to be seen as shying away from social contacts; to be stubborn and indecisive; to be easily upset by frustrations; to think of themselves as “bad” or unworthy; to regress or become immobilized by stress; to be mistrustful and resentful about not “getting enough”; to be prone to jealousy and envy; to overreact to irritations with a sharp temper, so provoking arguments and fights. And, after all those years, they still were unable to put off gratification.

What shows up in a small way early in life blossoms into a wide range of social and emotional competences as life goes on. The capacity to impose a delay on impulse is at the root of a plethora of efforts, from staying on a diet to pursuing a medical degree. Some children, even at four, had mastered the basics: they were able to read the social situation as one where delay was beneficial, to pry their attention from focusing on the temptation at hand, and to distract themselves while maintaining the necessary perseverance toward their goal-the two marshmallows.

Even more surprising, when the tested children were evaluated again as they were finishing high school, those who had waited patiently at four were far superior as students to those who had acted on whim. According to their parents’ evaluations, they were more academically competent: better able to put their ideas into words, to use and respond to reason, to concentrate, to make plans and follow through on them, and more eager to learn. Most astonishingly, they had dramatically higher scores on their SAT tests. The third of children who at four grabbed for the marshmallow most eagerly had an average verbal score of 524 and quantitative (or “math”) score of 528; the third who waited longest had average scores of 610 and 652, respectively-a 210-point difference in total score. At age four, how children do on this test of delay of gratification is twice as powerful a predictor of what their SAT scores will be as is IQ at age four; IQ becomes a stronger predictor of SAT only after children learn to read. This suggests that the ability to delay gratification contributes powerfully to intellectual potential quite apart from IQ itself. (Poor impulse control in childhood is also a powerful predictor of later delinquency, again more so than IQ.) As we shall see in Part Five, while some argue that IQ cannot be changed and so represents an unbendable limitation on a child’s life potential, there is ample evidence that emotional skills such as impulse control and accurately reading a social situation can be learned.
.
.
.
.
The spontaneous pleasure, grace, and effectiveness that characterize flow are incompatible with emotional hijackings, in which limbic surges capture the rest of the brain. The quality of attention in flow is relaxed yet highly focused. It is a concentration very different from straining to pay attention when we are tired or bored, or when our focus is under siege from intrusive feelings such as anxiety or anger.

Flow is a state devoid of emotional static, save for a compelling, highly motivating feeling of mild ecstasy. That ecstasy seems to be a by-product of the attentional focus that is a prerequisite of flow. Indeed, the classic literature of contemplative traditions describes states of absorption that are experienced as pure bliss: flow induced by nothing more than intense concentration.

Watching someone in flow gives the impression that the difficult is easy; peak performance appears natural and ordinary. This impression parallels what is going on within the brain, where a similar paradox is repeated: the most challenging tasks are done with a minimum expenditure of mental energy. In flow the brain is in a “cool” state, its arousal and inhibition of neural circuitry attuned to the demand of the moment. When people are engaged in activities that effortlessly capture and hold their attention, their brain “quiets down” in the sense that there is a lessening of cortical arousal. That discovery is remarkable, given that flow allows people to tackle the most challenging tasks in a given domain, whether playing against a chess master or solving a complex mathematical problem. The expectation would be that such challenging tasks would require more cortical activity, not less. But a key to flow is that it occurs only within reach of the summit of ability, where skills are well-rehearsed and neural circuits are most efficient.

A strained concentration-a focus fueled by worry-produces increased cortical activation. But the zone of flow and optimal performance seems to be an oasis of cortical efficiency, with a bare minimum of mental energy expended. That makes sense, perhaps, in terms of the skilled practice that allows people to get into flow: having mastered the moves of a task, whether a physical one such as rock climbing or a mental one such as computer programming, means that the brain can be more efficient in performing them. Well-practiced moves require much less brain effort than do ones just being learned, or those that are still too hard. Likewise, when the brain is working less efficiently because of fatigue or nervousness, as happens at the end of a long, stressful day, there is a blurring of the precision of cortical effort, with too many superfluous areas being activated-a neural state experienced as being highly distracted. The same happens in boredom. But when the brain is operating at peak efficiency, as in flow, there is a precise relation between the active areas and the demands of the task. In this state even hard work can seem refreshing or replenishing rather than draining.

Learning and Flow: New Model for Education

Because flow emerges in the zone in which an activity challenges people to the fullest of their capacities, as their skills increase it takes a heightened challenge to get into flow. If a task is too simple, it is boring; if too challenging, the result is anxiety rather than flow. It can be argued that mastery in a craft or skill is spurred on by the experience of flow-that the motivation to get better and better at something, be it playing the violin, dancing, or gene-splicing, is at least in part to stay in flow while doing it. Indeed, in a study of two hundred artists eighteen years after they left art school, Csikszentmihalyi found that it was those who in their student days had savored the sheer joy of painting itself who had become serious painters. Those who had been motivated in art school by dreams of fame and wealth for the most part drifted away from art after graduating.
Csikszentmihalyi concludes: “Painters must want to paint above all else. If the artist in front of the canvas begins to wonder how much he will sell it for, or what the critics will think of it, he won’t be able to pursue original avenues. Creative achievements depend on single-minded immersion.”

Just as flow is a prerequisite for mastery in a craft, profession, or art, so too with learning. Students who get into flow as they study do better, quite apart from their potential as measured by achievement tests. Students in a special Chicago high school for the sciences-all of whom had scored in the top 5 percent on a test of math proficiency-were rated by their math teachers as high or low achievers. Then the way these students spent their time was monitored, each student carrying a beeper that signaled them at random times during the day to write down what they were doing and what their mood was. Not surprisingly, the low achievers spent only about fifteen hours a week studying at home, much less than the twenty-seven hours a week of homework done by their high-achieving peers. The low achievers spent most of the hours during which they were not studying in socializing, hanging out with friends and family.
.
.
.
.
Chapter 7

The Roots of Empathy
.
.
.
.
The Well Attuned Child

Sarah was twenty-five when she gave birth to twin boys, Mark and Fred. Mark, she felt, was more like herself; Fred was more like his father. That perception may have been the seed of a telling but subtle difference in how she treated each boy. When the boys were just three months old, Sarah would often try to catch Fred’s gaze, and when he would avert his face, she would try to catch his eye again; Fred would respond by turning away more emphatically. Once she would look away, Fred would look back at her, and the cycle of pursuit and aversion would begin again-often leaving Fred in tears. But with Mark, Sarah virtually never tried to impose eye contact as she did with Fred. Instead Mark could break off eye contact whenever he wanted, and she would not pursue.

A small act, but telling. A year later, Fred was noticeably more fearful and dependent than Mark; one way he showed his fearfulness was by. breaking off eye contact with other people, as he had done with his mother at three months, turning his face down and away. Mark, on the other hand, looked people straight in the eye; when he wanted to break off contact, he’d turn his head slightly upward and to the side, with a winning smile.

The twins and their mother were observed so minutely when they took part in research “by Daniel Stem, a psychiatrist then at Cornell University School of Medicine. Stem is fascinated by the small, repeated exchanges that take place between parent and child; he believes that the most basic lessons of emotional life are laid down in these intimate moments. Of all such moments, the most critical are those that let the child know her emotions are met with empathy, accepted, and reciprocated, in a process Stem calls attunement. The twins’ mother was attuned with Mark, but out of emotional synch with Fred.  Stem contends that the countlessly repeated moments of attunement or misattunement between parent and child shape the emotional expectations adults bring to their close relationships-perhaps far more than the more dramatic events of childhood.

Attunement occurs tacitly, as part of the rhythm of relationship. Stem has studied it with microscopic precision through videotaping hours of mothers with their infants. He finds that through attunement mothers let their infants know they have a sense of what the infant is feeling. A baby squeals with delight, for example, and the mother affirms that delight by giving the baby a gentle shake, cooing, or matching the pitch of her voice to the baby’s squeal. Or a baby shakes his rattle, and she gives him a quick shimmy in response. In such an interaction the affirming message is in the mother more or less matching the baby’s level of excitement. Such small attunements give an infant the reassuring feeling of being emotionally connected, a message that Stem finds mothers send about once a minute when they interact with their babies.

Attunement is very different from simple imitation. “If you just imitate a baby,” Stem told me, “that only shows you know what he did, not how he felt. To let him know you sense how he feels, you have to play back his inner feelings in another way. Then the baby knows he is understood.”

Making love is perhaps the closest approximation in adult life to this intimate attunement between infant and mother. Lovemaking, Stem writes, “involves the experience of sensing the other’s subjective state: shared desire, aligned intentions, and mutual states of simultaneously shifting arousal,” with lovers responding to each other in a synchrony that gives the tacit sense of deep rapport. Lovemaking is, at its best, an act of empathy; at its worst it lacks any such emotional mutuality.
.
.
.
.
Chapter 10

Managing With Heart
.
.
.
.
Organizational Savvy and the Group IQ
.
.
.
.
Perhaps the most rudimentary form of organizational teamwork is the meeting, that inescapable part of an executive’s lot-in a boardroom, on a conference call, in someone’s office. Meetings-bodies in the same room are but the most obvious, and a somewhat antiquated, example of the sense in which work is shared. Electronic networks, e-mail, teleconferences, work teams, informal networks, and the like are emerging as new functional entities in organizations. To the degree that the explicit hierarchy as mapped on an organizational chart is the skeleton of an organization, these human touchpoints are its central nervous system.

Whenever people come together to collaborate, whether it be in an executive planning meeting or as a team working toward a shared product, there is a very real sense in which they have a group IQ, the sum total of the talents and skills of all those involved. And how well they accomplish their task will be determined by how high that IQ is. The single most important element in group intelligence, it turns out, is not the average IQ in the academic sense, but rather in terms of emotional intelligence. The key to a high group IQ is social harmony. It is this ability to harmonize that, all other things being equal, will make one group especially talented, productive, and successful, and another-with members whose talent and skill are equal in other regards-do poorly.

The idea that there is a group intelligence at all comes from Robert Sternberg, the Yale psychologist, and Wendy Williams, a graduate student, who were seeking to understand why some groups are far more effective than others. After all, when people come together to work as a group, each brings certain talents-say, a high verbal fluency, creativity, empathy, or technical expertise. While a group can be no “smarter” than the sum total of all these specific strengths, it can be much dumber if its internal workings don’t allow people to share their talents. This maxim became evident when Sternberg and Williams recruited people to take part in groups that were given the creative challenge of coming up with an effective advertising campaign for a fictitious sweetener that showed promise as a sugar substitute.

One surprise was that people who were too eager to take part were a drag on the group, lowering its overall performance; these eager beavers were too controlling or domineering. Such people seemed to lack a basic element of social intelligence, the ability to recognize what is apt and what inappropriate in give-and-take. Another negative was having deadweight, members who did not participate.

The single most important factor in maximizing the excellence of a group’s product was the degree to which the members were able to create a state of internal harmony, which lets them take advantage of the full talent of their members. The overall performance of harmonious groups was helped by having a member who was particularly talented; groups with more friction were far less able to capitalize on having members of great ability. In groups where there are high levels of emotional and social static-whether it be from fear or anger, from rivalries or resentments-people cannot offer their best. But harmony allows a group to take maximum advantage of its most creative and talented members’ abilities.

While the moral of this tale is quite clear for, say, work teams, it has a more general implication for anyone who works within an organization. Many things people do at work depend on their ability to call on a loose network of fellow workers; different tasks can mean calling on different members of the network. In effect, this creates the chance for ad hoc groups, each with a membership tailored to offer an optimal array of talents, expertise, and placement. Just how well people can “work” a network-in effect, make it into a temporary, ad hoc team-is a crucial factor in on-the-job success.

Consider, for example, a study of star performers at Bell Labs, the world famous scientific think tank near Princeton. The labs are peopled by engineers and scientists who are all at the top on academic IQ tests. But within this pool of talent, some emerge as stars, while others are only average in their output. What makes the difference between stars and the others is not their academic IQ, but their emotional IQ. They are better able to motivate themselves, and better able to work their informal networks into ad hoc teams.

The “stars” were studied in one division at the labs, a unit that creates and designs the electronic switches that control telephone systems-a highly sophisticated and demanding piece of electronic engineering. Because the work is beyond the capacity of anyone person to tackle, it is done in teams that can range from just 5 or so engineers to 150. No single engineer knows enough to do the job alone; getting things done demands tapping other people’s expertise. To find out what made the difference between those who were highly productive and those who were only average, Robert Kelley and Janet Caplan had managers and peers nominate the 10 to 15 percent of engineers who stood out as stars.

When they compared the stars with everyone else, the most dramatic finding, at ,first, was the paucity of differences between the two groups. “Based on a wide range of cognitive and social measures, from standard tests for IQ to personality inventories, there’s little meaningful difference in innate abilities,” Kelley and Caplan wrote in the Haroard Business Review. “As it develops, academic talent was not a good predictor of on-the-job productivity,” nor was IQ.

But after detailed interviews, the critical differences emerged in the internal and interpersonal strategies “stars” used to get their work done. One of the most important turned out to be a rapport with a network of key people. Things go more smoothly for the standouts because they put time into cultivating good relationships with people whose services might be needed in a crunch as part of an instant ad hoc team to solve a problem or handle a crisis. “A middle performer at Bell Labs talked about being stumped by a technical problem,” Kelley and Caplan observed. “He painstakingly called various technical gurus and then waited, wasting valuable time while calls went unreturned and e-mail messages unanswered. Star performers, however, rarely face such situations because they do the work of building reliable networks before they actually need them. When they call someone for advice, stars almost always get a faster answer.”

Informal networks are especially critical for handling unanticipated problems. “The formal organization is set up to handle easily anticipated problems,” one study of these networks observes. “But when unexpected problems arise, the informal organization kicks in. Its complex web of social ties form every time colleagues communicate, and solidify over time into surprisingly stable networks. Highly adaptive, informal networks move diagonally and elliptically, skipping entire functions to get things done.”

The analysis of informal networks shows that just because people work together day to day they will not necessarily trust each other with sensitive information (such as a desire to change jobs, or resentment about how a manager or peer behaves), nor turn to them in crisis. Indeed, a more sophisticated view of informal networks shows that there are at least three varieties: communications webs-who talks to whom; expertise networks, based on which people are turned to for advice; and trust networks. Being a main node in the expertise network means someone will have a reputation for technical excellence, which often leads to a promotion. But there is virtually no relationship between being an expert and being seen as someone people can trust with their secrets, doubts, and vulnerabilities. A petty office tyrant or micromanager may be high on expertise, but will be so low on trust that it will undermine their ability to manage, and effectively exclude them from informal networks. The stars of an organization are often those who have thick connections on all networks, whether communications, expertise, or trust.

Beyond a mastery of these essential networks, other forms of organizational savvy the Bell Labs stars had mastered included effectively coordinating their efforts in teamwork; being leaders in building consensus; being able to see things from the perspective of others, such as customers or others on a work team; persuasiveness; and promoting cooperation while avoiding conflicts. While all of these rely on social skills, the stars also displayed another kind of knack: taking initiative-being self-motivated enough to take on responsibilities above and beyond their stated job-and self-management in the sense of regulating their time and work commitments well. All such skills, of course, are aspects of emotional intelligence.

Chapter 11

Mind and Medicine
.
.
.
.
The Body’s Mind: How Emotions Matter for Health

In 1974 a finding in a laboratory at the School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Rochester, rewrote biology’s map of the body: Robert Ader, a psychologist, discovered that the immune system, like the brain, could learn. His result was a shock; the prevailing wisdom in medicine had been that only the brain and central nervous system could respond to experience by changing how they behaved. Ader’s finding led to the investigation of what are turning out to be myriad ways the central nervous system and the immune system communicate-biological pathways that make the mind, the emotions, and the body not separate, but intimately entwined.

In his experiment white rats had been given a medication that artificially suppressed the quantity of disease-fighting T cells circulating in their blood. Each time they received the medication, they ate it along with saccharin laced water. But Ader discovered that giving the rats the saccharin-flavored water alone, without the suppressive medication, still resulted in a lowering of the T-cell count-to the point that some of the rats were getting sick and dying. Their immune system had learned to suppress T cells in response to the flavored water. That just should not have happened, according to the best scientific understanding at the time.

The immune system is the “body’s brain,” as neuroscientist Francisco Varela, at Paris’s Ecole Polytechnique, puts it, defining the body’s own sense of self-of what belongs within it and what does not. Immune cells travel in the bloodstream throughout the entire body, contacting virtually every other cell. Those cells they recognize, they leave alone; those they fail to recognize, they attack. The attack either defends us against viruses, bacteria, and cancer or, if the immune cells misidentify some of the body’s own cells, creates an autoimmune disease such as allergy or lupus. Until the day Ader made his serendipitous discovery, every anatomist, every physician, and every biologist believed that the brain (along with its extensions throughout the body via the central nervous system) and the immune system were separate entities, neither able to influence the operation of the other. There was no pathway that could connect the brain centers monitoring what the rat tasted with the areas of bone marrow that manufacture T cells. Or so it had been thought for a century.

Over the years since then, Ader’s-modest discovery has forced a new look at the links between the immune system and the central nervous system. The field that studies this, psychoneuroimmunology, or PNI, is now a leading edge medical science. Its very name acknowledges the links: psycho, or “mind”; neuro, for the neuroendocrine system (which subsumes the nervous system and hormone systems); and immunology, for the immune system.

A network of researchers is finding that the chemical messengers that operate most extensively in both brain and immune system are those that are most dense in neural areas that regulate emotion. Some of the strongest evidence for a direct physical pathway allowing emotions to impact the immune system has come from David Felten, a colleague of Ader’s. Felten began by noting that emotions have a powerful effect on the autonomic nervous system, which regulates everything from how much insulin is secreted to blood-pressure levels. Felten, working with his wife, Suzanne, and other colleagues, then detected a meeting point where the autonomic nervous system directly talks to lymphocytes and macrophages, cells of the immune system.

In electron-microscope studies, they found synapse like contacts where the nerve terminals of the autonomic system have endings that directly abut these immune cells. This physical contact point allows the nerve cells to release neurotransmitters to regulate the immune cells; indeed, they signal back and forth. The finding is revolutionary. No one had suspected that immune cells could be targets of messages from the nerves.

To test how important these nerve endings were in the workings of the immune system, Felten went a step further. In experiments with animals he removed some nerves from lymph nodes and spleen-where immune cells are stored or made-and then used viruses to challenge the immune system. The result: a huge drop in immune response to the virus. His conclusion is that without those nerve endings the immune system simply does not respond as it should to the challenge of an invading virus or bacterium. In short, the nervous system not only connects to the immune system, but is essential for proper immune function.

Another key pathway linking emotions and the immune system is via the influence of the hormones released under stress. The catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine-otherwise known as adrenaline and noradrenaline), cortisol and prolactin, and the natural opiates beta-endorphin and enkephalin are all released during stress arousal. Each has a strong impact on immune cells. While the relationships are complex, the main influence is that while these hormones surge through the body, the immune cells are hampered in their function: stress suppresses immune resistance, at least temporarily, presumably in a conservation of energy that puts a priority on the more immediate emergency, which is more pressing for survival. But if stress is constant and intense, that suppression may become long-lasting.

Microbiologists and other scientists are finding more and more such connections between the brain and the cardiovascular and immune systems having first had to accept the once-radical notion that they exist at all.
.
.
.
.
Toxic Emotions: The Clinical Data
.
.
.
.
This finding is part of a larger network of evidence emerging from dozens of studies pointing to the power of anger to damage the heart. The old idea has not held up that a hurried, high-pressure Type-A personality is at great risk from heart disease, but from that failed theory has emerged a new finding: it is hostility that puts people at risk.

Much of the data on hostility has come from research by Dr. Redford Williams at Duke University. For example, Williams found that those physicians who had had the highest scores on a test of hostility while still in medical school were seven times as likely to have died by the age of fifty as were those with low hostility scores-being prone to anger was a stronger predictor of dying young than were other risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. And findings by a colleague, Dr. John Barefoot at the University of North Carolina, show that in heart patients undergoing angiography, in which a tube is inserted into the coronary artery to measure lesions, scores on a test of hostility correlate with the extent and severity of coronary artery disease.

Of course, no one is saying that anger alone causes coronary artery disease; it is one of several interacting factors. As Peter Kaufman, acting chief of the Behavioral Medicine Branch of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, explained to me, “We can’t yet sort out whether anger and hostility play a causal role in the early development of coronary artery disease, or whether it intensifies the problem once heart disease has begun, or both. But take a twenty-year-old who repeatedly gets angry. Each episode of anger adds an additional stress to the heart by increasing his heart rate and blood pressure. When that is repeated over and over again, it can do damage,” especially because the turbulence of blood flowing through the coronary artery with each heartbeat “can cause microtears in the vessel, where plaque develops. If your heart rate is faster and blood pressure is higher because you’re habitually angry, then over thirty years that may lead to a faster buildup of plaque, and so lead to coronary artery disease.”

Once heart disease develops, the mechanisms triggered by anger affect the very efficiency of the heart as a pump, as was shown in the study of angry memories in heart patients. The net effect is to make anger particularly lethal in those who already have heart disease. For instance, a Stanford University Medical School study of 1,012 men and women who suffered from a first heart attack and then were followed for up to eight years showed that those men who were most aggressive and hostile at the outset suffered the highest rate of second heart attacks. There were similar results in a Yale School of Medicine study of 929 men who had survived heart attacks and were tracked for up to ten years. Those who had been rated as easily roused to anger were three times more likely to die of cardiac arrest than those who were more even-tempered. If they also had high cholesterol levels, the added risk from anger was five times higher.

The Yale researchers point out that if may not be anger alone that heightens the risk of death from heart disease, but rather intense negative emotionality of any kind that regularly sends surges of stress hormones through the body. But overall, the strongest scientific links between emotions and heart disease are to anger: a Harvard Medical School study asked more than fifteen hundred men and women who had suffered heart attacks to describe their emotional state in the hours before the attack. Being angry more than doubled the risk of cardiac arrest in people who already had heart disease; the heightened risk lasted for about two hours after the anger was aroused.

These findings do not mean that people should try to suppress anger when it is appropriate. Indeed, there is evidence that trying to completely suppress such feelings in the heat of the moment actually results in magnifying the body’s agitation and may raise blood pressure. On the other hand, as we saw in Chapter 5, the net effect of ventilating anger every time it is felt is simply to feed it, making it a more likely response to any annoying situation. Williams resolves this paradox by concluding that whether anger is expressed or not is less important than whether it is chronic. An occasional display of hostility is not dangerous to health; the problem arises when hostility becomes so constant as to define an antagonistic personal styleone marked by repeated feelings of mistrust and cynicism and the propensity to snide comments and put-downs, as well as more obvious bouts of temper and rage.

The hopeful news is that chronic anger need not be a death sentence: hostility is a habit that can change. One group of heart-attack patients at Stanford University Medical School was enrolled in a program designed to help them soften the attitudes that gave them a short temper. This anger control training resulted in a second-heart-attack rate 44 percent lower than for those who had not tried to change their hostility. A program designed by Williams has had similar beneficial results. Like the Stanford program, it teaches basic elements of emotional intelligence, particularly mindfulness of anger as it begins to stir, the ability to regulate it once it has begun, and empathy.
.
.
.
.
The Healing Power of Emotional Support

In The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, Robin advises a young follower: “Tell us thy troubles and speak freely. A flow of words doth ever ease the heart of sorrows; it is like opening the waste where the mill dam is overfull.” This bit of folk wisdom has great merit; unburdening a troubled heart appears to be good medicine. The scientific corroboration of Robin’s advice comes from James Pennebaker, a Southern Methodist University psychologist, who has shown in a series of experiments that getting people to talk about the thoughts that trouble them most has a beneficial medical effect. His method is remarkably simple: he asks people to write, for fifteen to twenty minutes a day over five or so days, about, for example, “the most traumatic experience of your entire life,” or some pressing worry of the moment. What people write can be kept entirely to themselves if they like.

The net effect of this confessional is striking: enhanced immune function, significant drops in health-center visits in the following six months, fewer days missed from work, and even improved liver enzyme function. Moreover, those whose writing showed most evidence of turbulent feelings had the greatest improvements in their immune function. A specific pattern emerged as the “healthiest” way to ventilate troubling feelings: at first expressing a high level of sadness, anxiety, anger-whatever troubling feelings the topic brought up; then, over the course of the next several days weaving a narrative, finding some meaning in the trauma or travail.

That process, of course, seems akin to what happens when people explore such troubles in psychotherapy. Indeed, Pennebaker’s findings suggest one reason why other studies show medical patients given psychotherapy in addition to surgery or medical treatment often fare better medically than do those who receive medical treatment alone. Perhaps the most powerful demonstration of the clinical power of emotional support was in groups at Stanford University Medical School for women with advanced metastatic breast cancer. After an initial treatment, often including surgery, these women’s cancer had returned and was spreading through their bodies. It was only a matter of time, clinically speaking, until the spreading cancer killed them. Dr. David Spiegel, who conducted the study, was himself stunned by the findings, as was the medical community: women with advanced breast cancer who went to weekly meetings with others survived twice as long as did women with the same disease who faced it on their own.

All the women received standard medical care; the only difference was that some also went to the groups, where they were able to unburden themselves with others who understood what they faced and were willing to listen to their fears, their pain, and their anger. Often this was the only place where the women could be open about these emotions, because other people in their lives dreaded talking with them about the cancer and their imminent death. Women who attended the groups lived-for thirty-seven additional months, on average, while those with the disease who did not go to the groups died, on average, in nineteen months-a gain in life expectancy for such patients beyond the reach of any medication or other medical treatment. As Dr. Jimmie Holland, the chief psychiatric oncologist at Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital, a cancer treatment center in New York City, put it to me, “Every cancer patient should be in a group like this.” Indeed, if it had been a new drug that produced the extended life expectancy, pharmaceutical companies would be battling to produce it.
.
.
.
.
Part Four

Windows of Opportunity
.
.
.
.
Temperament is Not Destiny
.
.
.
.
Thus we seem by temperament primed to respond to life in either a negative or a positive emotional register. The tendency toward a melancholy or upbeat temperament-like that toward timidity or boldness-emerges within the first year of life, a fact that strongly suggests it too is genetically determined. Like most of the brain, the frontal lobes are still maturing in the first few months of life, and so their activity cannot be reliably measured until the age of ten months or so. But in infants that young, Davidson found that the activity level of the frontal lobes predicted whether they would cry when their mothers left the room. The correlation was virtually 100 percent: of dozens of infants tested this way, every infant who cried had more brain activity on the right side, while those who did not had more activity on the left.

Still, even if this basic dimension of temperament is laid down from birth, or very nearly from birth, those of us who have the morose pattern are not necessarily doomed to go through life brooding and crotchety. The emotional lessons of childhood can have a profound impact on temperament, either amplifying or muting an innate predisposition. The great plasticity of the brain in childhood means that experiences during those years can have a lasting impact on the sculpting of neural pathways for the rest of life. Perhaps the best illustration of the kinds of experiences that can alter temperament for the better is in an observation that emerged from Kagan’s research with timid children.

Taming the Overexcitable Amygdala

The encouraging news from Kagan’s studies is that not all fearful infants grow up hanging back from life-temperament is not destiny. The overexcitable amygdala can be tamed, with the right experiences. What makes the difference are the emotional lessons and responses children learn as they grow. For the timid child, what matters at the outset is how they are treated by their parents, and so how they learn to handle their natural timidness. Those parents who engineer gradual emboldening experiences for their children offer them what may be a lifelong corrective to their fearfulness.

About one in three infants who come into the world with all the signs of an overexcitable amygdala have lost their timidness by the time they reach kindergarten. From observations of these once-fearful children at home, it is clear that parents, and especially mothers, play a major role in whether an innately timid child grows bolder with time or continues to shy away from novelty and become upset by challenge. Kagan’s research team found that some of the mothers held to the philosophy that they should protect their timid toddlers from whatever was upsetting; others felt that it was more important to help their timid child learn how to cope with these upsetting moments, and so adapt to life’s small struggles. The protective belief seems to have abetted the fearfulness, probably by depriving the youngsters of opportunities for learning how to overcome their fears. The “learn to adapt” philosophy of child rearing seems to have helped fearful children become braver.

Observations in the homes when the babies were about six months old found that the protective mothers, trying to soothe their infants, picked them up and held them when they fretted or cried, and did so longer than those mothers who tried to help their infants learn to master these moments of upset. The ratio of times the infants were held when calm and when upset showed that the protective mothers held their infants much longer during the upsets than the calm periods.

Another difference emerged when the infants were around one year old: the protective mothers were more lenient and indirect in setting limits for their toddlers when they were doing something that might be harmful, such as mouthing an object they might swallow. The other mothers, by contrast, were emphatic, setting firm limits, giving direct commands, blocking the child’s actions, insisting on obedience.

Why should firmness lead to a reduction in fearfulness? Kagan speculates that there is something learned when a baby has his steady crawl toward what seems to him an intriguing object (but to his mother a dangerous one) interrupted by her warning, “Get away from that!” The infant is suddenly forced to deal with a mild uncertainty. The repetition of this challenge hundreds and hundreds of times during the first year of life gives the infant continual rehearsals, in small doses, of meeting the unexpected in life. For fearful children that is precisely the encounter that has to be mastered, and manageable doses are just right for learning the lesson. When the encounter takes place with parents who, though loving, do not rush to pick up and soothe the toddler over every little upset, he gradually learns to manage such moments on his own. By age two, when these formerly fearful toddlers are brought back to Kagan’s laboratory; they are far less likely to break out into tears when a stranger frowns at them, or an experimenter puts a blood pressure cuff around their arm.

Kagan’s conclusion: “It appears that mothers who protect their highly reactive infants from frustration and anxiety in the hope of effecting a benevolent outcome seem to exacerbate the infant’s uncertainty and produce the opposite effect.” In other words, the protective strategy backfires by depriving timid toddlers of the very opportunity to learn to calm themselves in the face of the unfamiliar, and so gain some small mastery of their fears. At the neurological level, presumably,this means their prefrontal circuits missed the chance to learn alternate responses to knee-jerk fear; instead, their tendency for unbridled fearfulness may have been strengthened simply through repetition.

In contrast, as Kagan told me, “Those children who had become less timid by kindergarten seem to have had parents who put gentle pressure on them to be more outgoing. Although this temperamental trait seems slightly harder than others to change-probably because of its physiological basis-no human quality is beyond change.”

Throughout childhood some timid children grow bolder as experience continues to mold the key neural circuitry. One of the signs that a timid child will be more likely to overcome this natural inhibition is having a higher level of social competence: being cooperative and getting along with other children; being empathic, prone to giving and sharing, and considerate; and being able to develop close friendships. These traits marked a group of children first identified as having a timid temperament at age four, who shook it off by the time they were ten years old.

By contrast, those timid four-year-olds whose temperament changed little over the same six years tended to be less able emotionally: crying and falling apart under stress more easily; being emotionally inappropriate; being fearful, sulky, or whiny; overreacting to minor frustration with anger; having trouble delaying gratification; being overly sensitive to criticism, or mistrustful These emotional lapses are, of course, likely to mean their relationships with other children will be troubled, should they be able to overcome their initial reluctance to engage.

By contrast, it is easy to see why the more emotionally competent though shy by temperament-children spontaneously outgrew their timidity. Being more socially skilled, they were far more likely to have a succession of positive experiences with other children. Even if they were tentative about, say, speaking to a new playmate, once the ice was broken they were able to shine socially. The regular repetition of such social success over many years would naturally tend to make the timid more sure of themselves.
.
.
.
.

The Way We Are – Allen Wheelis

Introduction

In a maze and lost, we follow now this lead, now another, veer this way and that through corridors of anguish, boredom, and-oh, so rarely!-joy. What are we up to? Where are we going? To what purpose? Occasionally we glimpse a phantom vision, gone in a flicker. We search for an informing principle, a truth that will teach us how to live, will define our task, enable us to transcend our folly and cruelty, to use ourselves up in a way that counts.

The way to live should issue from our nature, from what it is we believe ourselves most deeply to be. We tend to assume that we know what we are, that our nature is obvious, given to us by direct observation of others and of ourselves: Just look around the world and look into your own heart and you will know the human condition. It’s not so. What it is to be a human being is not clear at all, but deeply shrouded. Because, in the evolution from animal life to human life, along with the gain in knowledge and awareness, we have gained also the ability to deceive ourselves. We arrange not to know our nature, not to see what we are up to. Our self-deceptions are so dense, piled on so thick, like layers of paint on a canvas already painted, layer after layer, laid on from school and pulpit and lectern and TV and Internet, that it is all but impossible to break through, to get a clear view of what we really are.

Behind our loudly professed values of freedom, justice, and equality lies a propensity to violence far stronger and far deeper than is known to any of us, even the most cynical. It is all but invincible, invades even the bedroom, corrupts what we call love. We indulge in vast hypocrisies, flagrant and subtle, to conceal from ourselves this destructiveness. We are in fact largely the opposite of what we think we are.

And as we deceive ourselves, we deceive also others. Self-awareness comes into being in the midst of struggles for power and is immediately put to use. One defends oneself, or seeks advantage, by misrepresenting oneself. One doesn’t think about it; it happens instantly, automatically, inalienably. It is not possible to abstain. One cannot be oneself. To be human is to be false. Awareness is inseparable from misrepresentation. The soul of self-awareness is deception.

Revealing myself, I remain hidden. As the real self is exposed, it becomes false, the now-real self retreating in shadow behind the newly false. Honesty cannot know itself; aware of telling the truth, I lie. The pure heart, blind to its own purity, sees only outward; the reflective heart is devious. Unaware of weeping, I show you a moment of authentic grief; be quick, it’s gone in a flash. As I feel the tears on my face, knowing how they may alter your reaction, grief is mediated, is being staged. I am brokenhearted. Truly. Truly? Yes, but am making sure that you know it-while arranging somehow not myself to know I’m doing it. The reality to which that “truly” refers is a slippery item. “Say everything that comes to mind,” the analyst says to the analysand, “nothing must remain hidden”; but the first association scurries for cover as the second is being staged by the third, and the bottom of that barrel can never be scraped. Below the deepest uncovering one yet deeper is possible. Dirt is endless. Fur and feces and bones, and ever deeper, but no bedrock. Authenticity is fugitive in self-referential systems; awareness builds layer by layer while reality flees forward. I must take myself as an object of study, must use. my friends and my patients only as checks and limits. He who studies others will find much of interest but not the human condition. The most important things about human life we come upon from within and can know only from within.

I am obsessed with death; and this obsession, I am convinced, is not a private terror but the unchanging backdrop to the stage of our existence. We block it from view with contrived sets that we call reality, and though we know those sets to be fake we labor endlessly to make them look real. And as we go about those actions on that stage which accord with those sets, we come finally to believe they are real. The backdrop behind them is forgotten.

These are the two essential categories: that unchanging backdrop, the raw nature of existence, unadorned, unmediated, overwhelming us with dread, the way things are; and that changing succession of stage sets which we put up in front of the backdrop, blocking it from view, the schemes of things, the systems of meanings within which we live. The backdrop is a constant, too awful and too fearful to be endured; the sets change over the course of history, though they may seem fixed over the course of a lifetime. The set, as in a play, is the arrangement in which we live, the scheme of things.

Psychoanalysis attends to those distortions of mind that have come about as a result of mishap and mistreatment in childhood. It attempts the correction of these distortions by means of understanding. Not just analysts and analysands, but all of us, simply by being members of a culture permeated with the promise of psychology, share in the belief that such is possible. And as we, acting on this belief, go about the process of analyzing the miseries visited upon us by the preceding generation, it comes insidiously to seem that all misery is of this kind, not destiny but mishap, that therefore if people generally were free of neuroses we would no longer torment ourselves and our families, nor would tyrants torment their subjects (nor themselves even want to be tyrants), and that human life would then be happy and secure. Thus psychology slides into place as the modern ideology, the heir to religion. It is the scheme of things in which we live.

None of this, however, is of concern to me. The subject of my inquiry lies beyond psychology. It is the human condition itself. I want to know what is possible for man and what is precluded to man on the basis of that psychology which must be ascribed to him in order for him to be a man at all. Not the misery consequent to chance and mistreatment, which in principle may be remediable, but the misery that would remain, irremediable, simply by virtue of being a human being. That is my subject. What is the minimum penalty for being a conscious and self-conscious creature living simultaneously in an eternal symbolic world of our own construction and in the natural world in which, looking straight ahead, we see our oncoming death? Indeed, what suffering that we might wish to consider as avoidable or treatable must we conclude issues, not from mistreatment, but from this condition? And, further, what portion of that mistreatment of man by man and of child by parent, all of which appears gratuitous, may prove to be the unavoidable outcome of conditions that define the human state itself?

All of the themes of my life are here drawn together and reexamined, and passages appear here that have appeared in earlier books of mine. Too late perhaps to come upon a new vision, but still possible perhaps to set forth-with greater clarity, concision, and bluntness-what I know of the ways of power and the ways of the heart.

Ways of Power

I

The Nature of Man

Only the first life fed on nonlife. Thereafter life feeds on life. Big fish eat little fish. Jaws develop fangs. Hawk falls on hare, bird takes worm; wings flutter in the teeth of the fox. Man eats hare, fish, fowl, lamb.

We are both predator and victim. We kill those who have more to eat than we, or who threaten to take what we have-or who do not threaten but whom we so Imagine.

We kill to take the female or the territory of a rival. A rival is one who has a female or a territory we desire.

Property is a function of the willingness to fight. Titles are written in blood. Dusty deeds rest on old murders.

We are children of slime, our teeth break bone, suck marrow, we live on others; we devour their lives without ever seeing their faces. The magic of money and commerce keeps them far away, their screams unheard.

Everyone eats but few kill. Technicians fell the lamb. Eating becomes a ceremony of innocence, tinkle of crystal, rustle of taffeta. Teeth are for beauty: straighten them, make them whiter, the smile more loving. Visit every restaurant in town, never pass the house of slaughter.

Leather shoes and belt, mink coat, alligator handbag, gloves of calf, lizard watchbands, peacock feathers-how we deck ourselves in the skins and scraps-yet never strike a blow, never cut a throat. We push away our own destructiveness, make it alien, become finally unaware, see only the destructiveness of others.

The tendency of civilization is not to eliminate destructiveness, nor even to diminish it, but to remove it. Tooth to hand to stone to blade to bullet to bomb–so man estranges himself from his victim. Our fate falls now from the touch of a finger in an underground bunker half a world away.

Those who create the images we think we live by stand most aloof from the destructiveness by which, equally, we live. Poet and philosopher sit to meat, speak of love, charity, rights of man, sacredness of life. Far away blood flows, cries rise in the night. We benefit from such order as our cities afford, but it’s the cop on the beat who pistol-whips the thug. We are beneficiaries of the affluent society-the museums, universities, theaters, libraries-of an armed and sovereign state; but it’s the soldier who fights the wars which that state, however mistakenly, considers necessary for its survival.

So it comes about that those who teach us what life is, or should be, who create our image of ourselves, find killing to be ugly, mean, and set about in their dismay to draw maps of human nature in which destruction has no primary place, to make songs, poems, world views, religions, which portray killing as unnecessary, a kind of waywardness or error into which we have fallen, from which, by these creations of theirs, we must be rescued. Such maps become new justifications for more extensive killings. Holocausts are in the name of peace, freedom, justice, truth.

We kill men who threaten our holy faiths-Sun God, Christ, white skin, tree enterprise-or
who do not threaten but whom we choose so to construe.

The anguish of the Circus Maximus reappears at but a greater distance in the Last Judgment. It reappears quite immediately-with a violence greater by far than that of the Circus-in the Holy Inquisition and the Thirty Years War.

We destroy and we create. Without destruction there is no creation. Let those who praise life know that they praise equally the destroying and the creating. Monuments of murder and spires of devotion rise side by side, reach up to heaven.

We come now to a time when our capacity to tear down dazzles our capacity to build.

Conscience is the mandate of the group installed in one beating heart, enforces murder and brotherhood with equal authority.

Hydrogen warheads sleep lightly in underground nests.

Evil flickers here, there, everywhere, a wildfire out of control. Put it out here, it flares there. Everywhere. It is also inside ourselves, has crept into the deepest reaches of our heart. There is no good man. We all are killers, we live on others. And when, rarely, we can bring ourselves to admit it, we say ruefully, piously, “Christ was right, we all are fallen, we all are sinners.”

Fallen? From what? Where was that state of grace from which we are supposed to have fallen?

The innocence we ascribe to the childhood of humanity is the innocence we have come to know only much later, east of Eden, the innocence possible to us within the knowledge of good and evil. Such innocence consists in following the rules that banish violence. Therefore, as we project such obedience backward, we picture a gentle Eden wherein the lion and the lamb lie down together. And right there we’ve got it dead wrong. The innocence of our prehistory, our Garden of Eden, is the innocence of unlimited violence, of acting according to nature. There were then no taboos to set limits, hence no good and no evil.

The boundary zone of our existence is a forbidden territory called the sacred. We know we are there by signs. Voices are lowered and hushed, we tread softly, look up respectfully, apprehensively. We are warned to keep away. Near the boundary itself we are taken over by fear and trembling. We are too close to God. Common sense tugs at our sleeve: Turn back! Beyond the limit is great power. Those who cross that limit are struck down. Some few, able to seize and control the thunderbolts, become gods.

The sacred is a minefield barring the way back. It lies between us and the freedom we have lost, the violence we so fear and so desire, the rush, the oneness of life, the fusion, the continuity, the not-knowing. The approach is posted with taboos. Gods patrol the border ceaselessly, drive us onward, warn us not to look back. We can never go home again. Nor can we ever forget or stop longing.

Before mankind was enlightened, the awful power beyond the natural limits, securely removed from the ability of man to reach or control or to manipulate, was invoked by our priests and medicine men to strengthen those moral and sexual limits that man, by his own will, is capable of violating. The giant lurking in the earth who shakes our house down, he or some other giant just like him, we are told, patrols also the sexual and moral boundaries. Watch out! God is everywhere. If you transgress He will punish you.

Now we are enlightened; and enlightenment, it transpires, draws in its train strange, perhaps sinister, implications. After the initial grand victories of reason come disturbing aftershocks. Natural limits have been divested of meaning. If famine sweeps the land, that’s bad luck, but it is not God punishing us or telling us something. It’s but the impersonal, meaningless operation of natural forces.

The awful and the terrifying beyond the natural limits, therefore, cannot be used to maintain the inviolability of moral and sexual limits. No longer can we lend to morality the authority of lightning, of earthquake, of tidal wave. The Enlightenment has washed us up on an alien shore: All of our limits are variables, all are within our control. We may draw them in closer or push them out farther. There is no God to establish any position; so every position is arbitrary. If we wish to designate something as sacred and inviolate, we are free do to so, and others are equally free to spit on it. If we wish to exterminate all the Jews. . . well, no big deal. It requires only systematic propaganda, an efficient bureaucracy, a well-developed heavy industry, and soon the transports will be rolling. If we wish to kill all of the people of Dresden . . . no need to go to Washington for that, or even to London; the decision can be taken at the Air Command Center.

And why not?With no authority beyond humanity, by what standard can we designate anything as absolutely wrong? Wrong beyond reach of reconsideration? Whatever the nature of the limit, beyond that limit lies power. And that further increment of power will increase the temptation to yet further violation for a yet further augmentation of power.

Free to choose how to live, the way we choose is meaningless; living in the certainty of meaning, we live a life that is imposed.
.
.
.
.
Constant fear gives birth to exploitation. Because we are afraid we seek refuge in strength. We create gods to protect us, to explain our condition, to guarantee our safety, to promise us eternal life. And these gods, it turns out, speak to us through men of power-through wizards, priests, princes, prelates, and kings. They formulate the taboos: impulse must be controlled, violence and random sexuality prohibited. Sin comes into being. And morality. And guilt, the danger from within. Heaven is created for those who observe the taboos, hell for those who violate them. Fear and weakness impel us to honor the taboos, to obey our leaders. It is now possible for the few to control the many. Work comes into being: steady, heavy labor day after day for an end which is not of our choosing, which serves no purpose in our life but which (we have been convinced) is required by the gods who (we have come to believe) will protect us. Servitude is invented.

The proliferation of tools and of the things that are built with tools, and the proliferation of myths and of the fears that are formulated and expressed by myths, comprise culture. Henceforth man lives, not in nature, but in culture.

In our nostalgia for the major freedoms of animal life we remember a Golden Age, a Garden, a time before sin. The sacred does not beckon to us from up ahead, urging us forward toward higher spiritual realms. The sacred lies behind us. It blocks the way back to the freedom of our prehuman past. The sacred and the forbidden are one.
.
.
.
.
There is, however, a hook attached to this remarkable progression from animal to man, and we should-in the midst of our self-congratulation-have a look at it.

The violence that individuals have given up in the course of becoming orderly and moral has not been eliminated. It is passed on; it is handed upward. It collects at the top, in the White House, Number Ten Downing Street, the Reichstag, the Kremlin. The morality of individuals has led to community, to group solidarity, to orderliness, thereby making possible larger and larger sovereign collectives. And these collectives seize for themselves all of that power, all of that ruthlessness, that savagery, that the constituent individuals have, in their move to morality, to decency, themselves forsworn. These sovereign entities, however, have forsworn nothing, have not themselves become moral. Such was never their intention, though they are loud in lip service to that notion. And the savagery that these collectives, these super-beasts in their super-jungle, are able to inflict on each other and on their moral constituents is so much more destructive than anything that could be done by individuals-regard the German dead at the Falaise Gap, thousands and thousands of bodies, heads, limbs, viscera; the beach at Iwo Jima after the battle, nothing moving amid all those dead but the remorseless and now-red tide; Stalingrad at night, the frozen bodies in the empty silent streets, everything still except for the rustle of rats; the vast armada of planes over Berlin, the relentless thunder of bombs, the endless explosions, fires; the boiling cloud over Hiroshima stretching slowly up, up, up, reaching finally six miles into the clear early morning sky–so much more destructive than anything that could possibly be done by individuals, that we may permit ourselves some nostalgia for the untrammleled violence of our prehuman past.
.
.
.
.
III

The Scheme of Things

Animals live within the limits of their lives as biologically given, within circumstances that are environmentally given. There is no separation of self from environment, therefore no sense of self. There is no knowledge of death, no watching of one’s fateful progression, no history, no vision of one’s actual condition, hence no need to transcend that condition. Needs are immediate; when they are met the animal is content. There are no transcendent needs.

The moment approaches. Perhaps a million years in duration, still but a moment in the long journey. Consciousness enlarges to include one’s oncoming and inevitable death. One becomes aware of one’s self as distinct from one’s surroundings, knows one’s actual condition, moving through time, growing older, doomed. The animal is becoming human. This is the Fall. Culture is about to begin.

The immediate horror man perceives is his own death, but beyond that he begins to see the entire life process as carnage, as eating and being eaten. A terrible screaming pervades the universe. Man is the first to hear it. This is the vision we cannot accept. It drives toward madness or despair.

What does Christianity do with this vision? It does not deny it; it makes it acceptable. What Christianity does for the true believer is give him strength to bear it. Redeems it. That’s the word! The scheme of things redeems the way things are.

But what is redemption? It must be an interpretation. The scheme of things interprets the way things are as necessary to something grand. The scheme of things, therefore, is both a diagram of the something grand and an interpretation of the way things are as an essential step on the way to the something grand. The life process thereupon becomes less horrible and more bearable because it serves, however obscurely, a glorious end. One’s individual life is redeemed when it is in the service of the something grand.

The beginning of the redemption of life is the beginning of culture. All culture is redemption. The history of culture is the history of the changing forms by which a short and brutish life has been redeemed. The culture of a people, writes T. S. Eliot, is the incarnation of its religion. “Any religion, while it lasts, provides the framework for a culture, and protects the mass of humanity from boredom and despair.”

Man searches for a scheme of things larger than his own life, with greater authority, to which he may belong. The hunger from which this search issues is profound and inalienable. If he can find such a scheme and make his life “mean” something in it, that is, contribute to it, make a difference, he will have ferried something of his mortal self across the gulf of death to become a part of something that will live on. The doomed life must leave a residue of value. The carrier and guarantor of this value is a man-made scheme of things perceived as reality and presumed to be eternal.

What can one say of the way things are? That the constructions of mind are not coextensive with existence, that there is something” out there,” a universe independent of man, there before we arrived and to be there after we have disappeared. It affects us and we it. It and we are in continual contact and interaction, and we know it not. We cannot bear to know. An angel, detached and immortal, could know; we, mired in mortality, are at risk. Interest deflects our knowing. Our lives depend on its being other than it is. In the midst of the way things are we know only the scheme of things in which we live.

The scheme of things is a system of order. Beginning as our view of the world, it finally becomes our world. We live within the space defined by its coordinates. It is self evidently true, is accepted so naturally and automatically that one is not aware of an act of acceptance having taken place. It comes with our mother’s milk, is chanted in school, proclaimed from the White House, insinuated by television, validated at Harvard. Like the air we breathe, the scheme of things disappears, becomes simply reality, becomes, as far as we can tell, the way things are. It is the lie necessary to life. The world as it exists beyond that scheme becomes vague, irrelevant, largely unperceived, finally nonexistent.

As soon as the scheme of things is questioned, it has lost its capacity to redeem. “What, then,” Camus writes, “is that incalculable feeling that deprives the mind of the sleep necessary to life? A world that can be explained even with bad reasons is a familiar world. But . . . in a universe suddenly divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger.”

As man emerged from the condition of animal, there must have been a period of transition during which the carriers of the process could not have known what was happening to them or even that a change was taking place. Now in retrospect we can see it as an expansion of awareness which brought into being freedom and choice. The knowing mind begins to know itself and to perceive, along with the freedom to do this or that, a horror about which it has no freedom at all. As soon as we become able, floating down the river of life, really to see the remarkable scenery and to enjoy the newly acquired freedom to move this way or that in the current, at just that moment we hear the roar of the cataract ahead. This is the human condition. Amid the luscious fruits we see the coiled asp. We become, at one stroke, gods and food for worms.

Changes that come about glacially in the transformation of species are reenacted in a flash in the lives of individuals. Thus we may catch a glimpse, each in his own past, of that moment which recapitulates the birth of man, the beginning of that exaltation and anguish which has become for us the condition of life, the air we breathe.

I remember a spring night in a school auditorium, during the rehearsal of a play. I am thirteen. I am weary of the farce, weary of the silliness of the cast, of our endless horseplay, mindlessness. A scene in which I have no part is being rehearsed; I stand in an open door at the rear of the dark and empty hall. A storm is under way. The door is on the lee of the building, and I step out under the overhang. The rain swirls and beats. Lightning reveals a familiar schoolyard in a ghostly light. I feel a sudden poignancy. Images strike my mind. The wind is the scream of a lost spirit, searching the earth and finding no good, recalling old bereavements, lashing the land with tears. Consciousness leaves my body, moves out in time and space. I undergo an expanding awareness of self, of separateness, of time flowing through me, bearing me on, knowing I have a chance, the one chance all of us have, the chance of a life, knowing a time will come when nothing lies ahead and everything lies behind, and hoping I can then look back and feel it well spent. How, in the light of fixed stars, should one live?

So begins the hunger for meaning.
.
.
.
.
Should ever any scheme of things acquire absolute authority it would exclude from awareness anything beyond its limits. Nothing then could contend with it and no change could occur. It and the society it organized would be static and immortal. Each individual by allegiance to that scheme would share in that immortality. The dread of death would be overcome.

No scheme of things has ever achieved such authority, though some schemes have endured for millennia. Change is unstoppable; for no scheme of things has ever convinced everyone. All schemes involve limitation and denial. They are man-made. They reach out into the way things are, the realm of the existing, and make order. Then claim to be eternal.

A scheme of things is a plan for salvation. How well it works will depend upon its scope and authority. If it is small, even great achievement in it service will do little to dispel death. We seek the largest possible scheme, not in a hunger for truth, but in a hunger for meaning. The more comprehensive the scheme, the greater its promise of banishing dread. If we can make our lives mean something in a cosmic scheme we will live in the certainty of immortality. The very great success of Christianity for a thousand years follows upon its having been of universal scope, including and accounting for everything, assigning to all things a proper place; offering to every man,whether prince or beggar, savant or fool, the privilege of working in the Lord’s vineyard; and upon its being accepted as true throughout the Western world.

As a ruling scheme of things is modified by inroads from outlying existence, it loses authority, is less able to banish dread; its adherents fall away. Eventually it fades, exists only in history, becomes quaint or primitive, becomes, finally, a myth. Our myths were once blueprints of reality. The Church, as defender of the regnant scheme of things, was right to stop Galileo; activities such as his import into the social order new orientations which will eventually destroy that order.

When the ruling scheme of things comes to seem untrue or unimportant, one’s efforts within it become meaningless. One’s whole life becomes meaningless. The Heavenly City falls into ruins. The avenue to immortality ends on an abyss. One is cast back on his individual life, stares ahead through a transparence of days to death, which stands at the end. One enters a state of dread.

Life then is borne forward on waves of cynicism and despair. One seeks distraction, death-defying games perhaps which invoke the specter from which one flinches. By surviving the heightened risk one may achieve briefly the illusion of mastery. But not for long. Within the confines of a single life death is unmasterable.

Sometimes the distraction is less desperate and may contain creative possibilities. What began as a distraction from the loss of meaning and the dread of death may come itself to have meaning and to protect against dread. The distraction, that is, becomes a new scheme of things. A committed chess player may finally lose awareness that life contains anything other than chess. A new defense against the Ruy Lopez may be monument enough.

In such a recovery one may move to a scheme of things larger than the one that has crumbled; the crumbling itself may then be seen in a perspective that makes it meaningful, perhaps even inevitable. So the Marxists of the thirties become the Freudians of the forties, and politics is subsumed under psychology. A. A. Brill was able to comprehend the rash of strikes during the Depression as rebellious sons acting out their defiance of fathers.

For a thousand years Christianity was for the Western world the scheme of things organizing man’s worldview. It stood at the apex of a hierarchy within which were included all other schemes, fraternal, artistic, scholastic, political. That world order is now irretrievably lost.

I come back to Eliot’s dictum that culture is the incarnation of religion. If that is true-and I believe it’s true – a culture cannot forever survive the loss of its religion; for the lesser schemes of things which that culture will still be able to offer will, whatever their merits, lack that element of the sacred which previously had derived from religion, and without which no one of the lesser schemes will be able to achieve the unification of the whole.

Science, like religion, is a scheme of things hierarchically ordered, including many subordinate schemes. The compelling paradigm of one age may, like phlogiston, be but a quaint superstition for the next, without disturbing the overriding rational-scientific scheme of things of which the varying paradigms are subordinate schemes. But science has never, not even in its greatest ascendancy, claimed such cosmic scope as Christianity. Some of the joys and sorrows of man’s condition have not, within science, found a place or an accounting. Most particularly now do they find no place; for the rational-scientific scheme of things is itself on the decline. Fewer people now see it as coextensive with reality. More and more frequently people look away from science, or around its edges, in search of some new vision, some new scheme of things with which to order their lives.
.
.
.
.
IV

Power
.
.
.
.
For most of the duration of life on earth, power was the ability to rend, to tear, to seize, to pin down, to destroy, to gobble up. Significant power in human affairs now, in essence unchanged, is in the form of money, property, position, acclaim, possessions, influence.

The guises of power are so various, so dissembled, that power ceases to be recognized as such. We would have it that human life is discontinuous with life in the tide pools, in the jungle, that mind or spirit, something far removed from power, has come to be the essence of human life. We delude ourselves. The holders of great power may be physically frail, gentle in manner, tender in sentiment, Christian by profession, may wear but a loincloth; but power is power, and its nature is to grab hold, to seize possession, to overwhelm. Whatever appears in human life that seems unrelated to power, or even-like love, like charity, like self-sacrifice-contrary to it, is, if it endures, but another mask of power.

Observe the single free-floating cell. It moves about, this way and that, exploring, seeking. What does it want? It wants to seize the nutrient environment, take it in, grow bigger, stronger. It has heard God’s voice: Be fruitful and multiply.

It comes about in time, in our remote evolutionary past, that a number of such cells associate themselves into a community. Something new. Are not these several cells hampered in their competition with other cells by virtue of, as it were, holding hands? Why, yes, very likely. And whenever so hampered, they perish. But it comes about eventually, by chance. that some such association is not hampered but advantaged, finds itself the possessor of superior strength, greater than the summation of its constituent strengths, whereupon the association endures. The will to power of the individual cell is surrendered to the whole. The will of the individual cell comes to be not power but cooperation, faithful service in its subordinate place and function in the life of the organism. It has become servant to the will to power of the whole.

To gain power is to gain respect; it is also-equally, inevitably-to be hated. He who is afraid to be hated is handicapped in his pursuit of power, for with each gain in power will come an increase in hatred. The greater the fear of this hatred, the greater the obstacle to the pursuit of power. One continues on a course of increasing power until fear calls a halt.

Prudence requires that our hatred of the powerful be hidden, while our respect is manifest, often ostentatious. As every king must know, however, the hatred, though invisible, is always present. Uneasy lies the head. . . etc.

Naked power is quicksilver, lost in a flash-a bank robber on the run, hand on his gun, shot down at the next corner. So power rushes to form, which endows power with legitimacy, defines the processes whereby it is acquired, exercised, delegated, transferred. Hiding behind form, power acquires stability. Form is a structure of power but claims legitimacy as a map of reality. Reality is flux, while power, always trying to preserve itself, insists on the permanence of forms; so form falls ever more at variance with the changing reality it claims faithfully to reflect. Power clings to form even after form’s claim to truth has become manifest travesty. The emperor has no clothes.

We are not suited to be free. We are suited still, as when we were children, to live under the protection of, and within the limits set by, loving parents. As adults we strive to continue this arrangement, with kings and gods slipping into the place of parents.

Always we are of two minds about power. Because we are insecure, we need someone above us, more powerful than we, to whom we can turn for protection and guidance. So great is this need that it shapes our perception: we see our wise men as wiser than they are, our kings as more kingly, our priests as more holy. Being themselves but human, and having the same needs as we, they, too, are driven to look upward, to find someone or something more powerful than they. So we have gods. We kneel, we pray to an Almighty.

At the same time we distrust all power, know that it may not protect but exploit, may use us for its own ends. So we are poised for rebellion. When the wind veers, we
will turn upon our leaders, tear them apart. The bodies of Mussolini and his mistress, strung up by the heels, swing from the lamppost in Milan.

Neurosis is inhibition and anxiety. And what is normality? The freedom to love and to work. So we say. But is there not something disingenuous about this jaunty loftiness? What are we hiding? Normality is the free pursuit of power-curbed, in deference to prevailing morality, only enough to maintain appearances and to keep us out of trouble.

The child grabs for power in whatever ways spontaneously suggest themselves to him, and in so doing encounters disapproval, punishment, loss of love-so bringing it about that the mere inclination toward forbidden behaviors causes fear, counsels caution. Eventually the parental prohibitions, installed as conscience, operate from within, honored as duty, enforced by guilt, elevated as right and as good.

Morality is fear that has been transformed into conscience. The morality that is observed, as distinct from the morality that is but professed, measures the freedom that individuals have surrendered to the collective in return for security.

The will to power impels the rush of life; morality and fear constitute the barrier; the outcome in behavior is a compromise.

If the barrier is massive, the inhibition or deflection of drive may be so great that no trace of power will stain the goal in view. But however masked or attenuated or denied, hunger for power is the source-for the selfless, the anchorite, the martyr, and the saint, no less than for the man on horseback.

We say we want freedom and justice, and surely we do; but when the tyrant is overthrown and the palace ransacked, the triumphant leaders of the revolution proceed to consolidate that power which was, all along, the unavowed aim ulterior to freedom and justice.
.
.
.
.
Parts serve the whole. The organism grows larger and more powerful by virtue of finding better and better ways to exploit its constituents. Slaves may be made to man the oars and drive the galley, but it requires the constant attention of a slave master cracking the whip. But if the slaves can be converted to a faith in the ship and its mission, then no slave master will be needed-he will now be free to help with the cannon-while the ship slices forward ever faster, with more power, more dangerous to its enemies.

There is no alternative to power, no other position-not Christianity nor the Golden Rule nor brotherly love nor nonviolence; not self-sacrifice nor the turning of the other cheek. For all these various abnegations of power by parts of a whole are, unwittingly, in the service of increased power to the whole; and the morality created by such renunciations is used by the aggregate to increase the power with which it then pursues more power.

Good and evil come into existence as defined by power, and are shaped to protect power. They filter down from rulers, magistrates, educators, from bishops, priests, and Sunday school teachers to parents, who shape the conscience of children, imprint the limits, instill the guilt.

Order and safety are maintained; citizens need not bear arms; violence is proscribed, banished beyond borders. And so it comes about that the modern state is thought to be a moral state, even a Christian state, the source and the defender of morality, of civilization, of high culture. But the morality that is here, rightly, ascribed to the state is internal, the lawfulness of cells within an organism. In its conduct with other states, and with those barbarians beyond its borders, the state is a killer. And utterly self-righteous in its exterminations. The state claiming morality is like a murderer claiming innocence by pointing out that his hands and feet moved lawfully during the performance of the crime.

The state does not intend itself to become moral; it requires morality of its subjects as the necessary basis of its own amoral power, of its continued ability to conduct international brigandage abroad and the torture of political prisoners at home.

The unselfishness of individuals empowers the selfishness of states. The selflessness of patriots becomes the arrogance of nations. Morality constricts and diminishes the life of the individual as it strengthens and enlarges the life of the collective.

The cohesiveness of the group, achieved by the morality and lawfulness of its constituents, enables the group to become larger and stronger. The morality of the individual thus has survival value for the amoral collective and, insofar as the safety of the individual depends upon the power of the collective, also for the individual.

But the group can never, as a group, govern itself, cannot organize and exploit its potential power. For this, leaders are required, leaders with a vision of how the group may become even stronger. And such leaders can appear only if certain individuals within the morally organized collective are themselves immoral, break the rules in pursuit of personal power. So the greatest chance of survival falls, paradoxically, to that collective which has achieved solidarity by morality and, at the same time, contains within itself a leaven of opportunists who will exploit that morality for personal power.

He who wants power must be prepared to live flexibly between respecting rules and violating rules. Never must he break rules so flagrantly as to be flung out of the hierarchy; for the outcast will remain powerless. Since power can be gained only within the hierarchy, it is imperative that he remain in good standing with that part of the structure above him. Yet never must he observe the rules so respectfully as to miss the chance to seize unmerited advancement, to climb over, and perhaps dislodge, someone above him on the ladder.
.
.
.
.
Nothing within the state impedes the pursuit of power by the state. Empires expand. Anyone of them, were it able, would encompass the world. They go as far as they can, stop only where the lines of communication and supply are stretched too thin, where the conduits of power can no longer deliver effective force.

In the individual, however, morality is a brake and may at any point set a limit. A truly Christian position calls for the abnegation of power, requires one to give all he has to the poor, to be meek, to love his enemy, to turn the other cheek. A measure of the instinctual force of the drive for power is given by the rarity with which such an ethic has in fact been practiced.

The other internal obstacle is fear. One can go quite far in the acquisition of instrumental power without struggling with another human being and hence without encountering fear, power growing as a function of one’s skill in becoming a good pianist, carpenter, bookkeeper, or surgeon.  But a point is reached eventually beyond which any further gain can be achieved only in struggle with another person, in defeating or besting or outmaneuvering someone. In such contest one is vulnerable, there is no sure win. One may show one’s self a fool, may be humiliated. Fear may become so intense that one’s life comes to be structured around it. Whoever arranges for himself an isolated life (a writer, an artist, a forest-fire watcher, a drawbridge keeper) or a vocation with builtin advantages over the people with whom one deals (a psychoanalyst, an anesthesiologist) is likely to be one who feels keenly the danger of pursuing power through interpersonal struggle.

The hurdy-gurdy plays, and around and around they go, the charioteer, the legionnaire, the cuirassier, up and down, sailing around, the president, the foreign minister, the chiefs of staff, varnished faces frozen in arrogance and disdain, the bombardier, the cavalryman, the machine gunner, around and around, as the band plays on.

When the oppressed take up arms and rebel, they do so in the name of principles that assert basic human rights and so constitute an insurgent morality which justifies the overthrow of the existing order. The existing order has a morality of its own, an establishment morality, which holds that the security and welfare of each individual are contingent on the state, that the state therefore is owed allegiance, that its laws must be obeyed, its leaders respected. It labels the leaders of the rebellion as traitors, criminals, fanatics, and will crush them if it can. As rebels confront government troops, so insurgent morality confronts establishment morality. If government troops prevail, the insurgent morality is discredited, disappears. If the rebels are victorious, the establishment morality is discredited, succeeded by the insurgent morality.

In the latter event the insurgent morality comes to be allied with power, becomes the new establishment morality, ancillary to the safeguarding and expansion of power. In this new role it sanctifies power, reassures the now newly oppressed that their oppression is in the nature of things, perhaps ordained by divine will, that no protest is indicated but rather patience and cooperation, that all must make sacrifices, that the leaders act for the welfare of all, that laws must be obeyed.

Thus a morality which began as protest against power becomes the servant of power. The insurgent morality in its insurgency declares that power is corrupt and tends to corrupt everyone and everything allied to it; and when the revolution succeeds, it proves the truth of its indictment by corrupting first those exalted principles under whose banners it rode to power, along with the warriors who bore them.

The merry-go-round spins, and around and around they go, the missileman, the submariner, the minister of propaganda, up and down, around and around, while the band plays on.

Those persons who arrive at the intermediate ranges of power have clean hands, white lace cuffs. They are doctors, jurists, writers, scientists, artists, editors, professors, poets. They delegate to others the bloodier, the more immediately cruel and exploitative aspects of power. Thereby they create a space around themselves in which can flourish the gentler sentiments: love, empathy, pity, even self-sacrifice. These gentler sentiments then gradually generate a morality which condemns the unfettered will to power.

People of this sequestered moral group increasingly criticize those more distant agencies which execute the will of the state, thereby becoming estranged from the source of their own security and their affluence. Power becomes alien to them. They see it as brutal, abhorrent. They say the state is immoral-which it is. Increasingly they use their influence to restrict the state in its exercise of power over its constituents and over other states.

Thus an enclave of the privileged, who have distanced themselves from the bloody hands to which they owe their privileged state, articulates a morality that would manacle those hands.

A powerful society can afford, may even support and defend, such an enclave of the morally fastidious. But if the message of this minority should persuade the whole, the whole would find itself in peril. For force, as John Keegan has remarked, provides the ultimate constraint whereby all settled societies protect themselves against the enemies of order within and without. Those persons with the knowledge and will to use force stand close to the center of any society’s power structure; power holders who lack such will or knowledge will find themselves driven from that center. Mercenaries will fight alongside citizen soldiers; but if there are no citizen soldiers, if all citizens maintain clean hands and all dirty work is delegated to mercenaries, then not for long will mercenaries be content to fight for wages. Wielding the force, they will proceed to take the power. Force, like a heat-seeking missile, finds out those who lack the will to use it.

V

Sovereignty
.
.
.
.
When the mountain men came down out of the Rockies in the nineteenth century and took up life in the village, there was a period in which, if community constraints proved too onerous, they could pack back into the mountains and resume their isolated and independent existences. The present-day citizen of Denver or Butte or Taos has lost this option, is no longer capable of wilderness survival, and is held, moreover, by ties to the union or the grange, to the American Legion or the Rotary Club, and by Social Security, whence will come his pension.

The aggregate is not satisfied, however, to have its component parts stick together only because they could not survive on their own. Such allegiance is halfhearted. (“We have a terrible president, the country is on a disastrous course, but I guess we have to rally behind him. We have no choice.”) The aggregate wants to generate patriotic fervor, to bring it about that individuals lose sight of their separate lives, lose awareness of their ubiquitous conflict with the state, that their identification with the state expunge the purview of individual life with its joys and sorrows, its hopes, its ideals, and particularly its ability to criticize the state in terms of reason, of common sense, and of the discrepancy between the announced aims of the state and the actions the state is undertaking. The unison of Sieg Heil by the packed and disciplined masses at Nuremburg, that is what the state wants; or the faith of Nikolai Rostov, who in holy warlike exaltation charges forward alone, an embodiment of the Russian spirit, against the massed French forces at Austerlitz. Think not of what your country can do for you, said President Kennedy, but of what you can do for your country.

There is, therefore, a constant struggle between the individual and the state. For the state to gain power, individuals must lose power. The state would like to eat up all individual power, all independence, discretion, freedom, autonomy. The individual opposes this demand, insists that the state not take any more. In times of danger to the state, however, individuals can be persuaded to relinquish additional bits of freedom, since the security of the individual rests ultimately with the security of the state. In a crisis we vote war credits and military conscription. And the state, knowing this, is always tempted to create crises that will justify arrogating to itself additional increments of the independence of its components.

In this continuing struggle, the last century has witnessed a decisive shift in favor of the state. The Fascist and Communist movements since 1917 managed to appropriate vastly more power than citizens had ever in the past been willing to give up. The values of art, of individual conscience, of personal preference and belief, all presumably secure within the private realm, have in our times been confiscated by the state.
.
.
.
.
Ways of the Heart

VI

Desire
.
.
.
.
When life has meaning, desire is held to its proper place-“proper” being the shape and scope and authority allowed to it by the interlocking structure of values that constitutes the meaning of life. When life is without meaning, desire is a wildfire out of control.

To express desire is to empower the other and disadvantage one’s self. Catastrophic if unilateral, exalting when lovers do it together.

But why would they, even together, choose surrender? choose weakness over strength? They seem to want to get weaker and weaker, want their legs to give way with love, want to swoon together, fall into each other, totally disappear in each other. They want to die as individuals in the fusion, to be reborn on the other side, a love death followed by magical rebirth. Over and over. And if it is never actually achieved, desire ensures that we keep on trying.
.
.
.
.
We sit in silence, facing each other across a small round table inlaid, in abstract geometric design, with pieces of colored leather in dark muted tones. A gardenia floats in a shallow black lacquer dish, the heavy scent rising between us. She looks into my eyes, she stares, unblinking. Her mouth trembles. Her expression changes from longing to adoration to desperate desire.

She does not know me. I do not know her. Desire deceives. We never know the real other out there, know only that other as reshaped by our desire. We take our fantasy, go looking for a suitable place to lodge it, reshaping reality with longing, stumbling through our years, seeking out stand-ins with whom we can act out again the old script, hoping this time for a happy ending, believing all the while that we are into something new.

And in the rain of conflicts to come, I remind myself, my papier-mache angel will turn into a witch or a drab.

Yet this passion for a falsified other may be the only thing in life really worthwhile. Without it one lives in a world of dailiness, of hearth love, the ordinary love of husband and wife, of parent and child, of friends. Such love may be constant, caring, loyal, may protect against loneliness and despair, provide the only security possible in a world of hazard, all these good things, and it may be, if we were wise, we would settle for it, renouncing that fever in the blood. But it does not transcend, does not lift us up and out, does not take us to the other side. The assumption that it is always desirable to see the world as it is may be in error. The undistorted and hence unexalted life may not be worth living.

Desire is endless and unappeasable, is most intense where most forbidden, and is never far from despair.

VII

Fidelity
.
.
.
.
Problems of right and wrong originate right there, with those breasts. We are pretty clear about theft, murder, the beating of children, the torture of animals. It is in the quagmire of sex, in the love and the caring that may or may nor spring up around it, the promises we make, the betrayals that follow those promises, the evasions we practice, the lies we tell-here, here is the agony of conscience, the confusion, the hunger for a god to tell us what is right and what is wrong.

But maybe the answer is right before me. Drop all this sophistry. You know what’s right. Do it. The answer stares you in the face: obey the rules. The obvious rules, the simple, in-your-face rules. Have we not always known that we can’t have everything? Accept the boundaries, live within their limits and restrictions, and the problem of morality will have been solved.

But even the obvious must be examined. Is it sound? If this solution should come to be generally adopted, what consequences would follow?

The man who is serious and conscientious about rule observing is the perfectly moral man. Upright. Open. Nothing to hide. You know what he stands for, good as his word, you can count on him. He gets to work on time, never calls in sick, is prudent with his assets, exact in contractual obligations, never shades figures on his tax return. No one would know if he took a few discreet liberties here and there, but he would know. He respects the rules, endows them with authority. No one has to keep an eye on him. A careful and prudent man, temperate, always looking more toward the rules he must be careful to obey than toward the ever-changing world with its shifting dangers and opportunities. He never flirts with a pretty woman, mindful that the slightest step in that direction might lead to adultery.

What sort of world would it be if everybody were like that? Would it be an improvement on the world we have? Might it be heaven?

Certainly it would be different. We would have no more Clintons for sure, nor Kennedys, nor Roosevelts.

It might be that no one I really love would be there.

It would be a static society-or, rather, one striving to be static, but slipping progressively out of touch with the changes taking place, unstoppably, around it and within it. And as that discrepancy increased, the efforts of the group to save itself, and its rules, by arresting change would become more rigid, more desperate, more punitive. A Grand Inquisitor would preside over the Tribunal, sentence miscreants to the pyre.

Does not all creativity originate in boundary violation, in breaking through to realms outside the old limits? The stupid and the cautious tend to obey the rules: the stupid because they fail to recognize how easily the rules may be subverted with impunity, the cautious because they fear the group’s ability to punish.

The intelligent and the bold tend to violate the rules: seeing the loopholes, the endless opportunities for evasion and concealment, and perceiving, further, how far the change-resistant rules have lagged behind a changing social reality, how benighted therefore some of these rules have come to be, still asserting, as they do, a horse-and-buggy morality in an age of superhighways, they take liberties-so easily they may not even notice.

The completely moral life-that is, the meticulous observance of all of the rules-leads, for both the individual and the group, to a rigidity that falls increasingly at odds with a changing world. Yet boundary violations, if reckless-recklessness measurable, usually, only after the act and its consequences-destroy the individual and destroy the social order. The individual becomes an outlaw, the group becomes a mob.

Well, then, how much? What is the rule to guide us in the judicious breaking of rules? What is a wise measure of violation?

“Pain is not the main thing,” she says, “not the worst thing. It’s not even very important. Worse is to play it safe, never to risk everything for the one big thing that comes only once, that looms, for a moment only, and then is gone. Once and once only. There’s just a moment when we can go for it, leap, spend it all; or be prudent, hang back, listen to the cautious voices around us, and see that one big thing disappear forever.”

The one big thing, that’s the issue, to go for it or not. That one big thing-“costing not less than everything”-big enough maybe to justify a crime, our one chance to climb up and out of meaninglessness.

Time is running out and I cannot see-but I dread what lies beyond.

Am I really struggling toward a moral decision? Or am I scrambling for a credible begging of the question? What a fallible calculus this is, even to the most disinterested and I am the most interested of all.

Should I then disqualify myself, put it in the hands of a wise man?

I distrust wise men.

Anyway I know I could control the outcome by knowing the leanings of the wise man in whose hands I would place it. (You see? I am a wise man myself.)

Should I leave it to God? I don’t believe in God. There is no escape from arbitrariness. In the hands of the most interested party lies the full responsibility for a disinterested decision.

May God have mercy on those whose fate is in my hands.

Her voice is dark, liquid, mysterious. She speaks slowly, with long pauses, searching for the right emphasis, the exact inflection. Sometimes her eyes lay hold of mine with an imploring pull, as if grasping my hand, asking me to find something between the words. At times she abandons English altogether and there then pours over me a lyrical torrent, her full lips dancing on the cascading words. I watch her mouth, the glimpse of tongue.

“What were you saying?” I will ask finally.

“I was telling you how much I love you. How much . . . and all the different ways . . . and since you don’t understand what I’m saying I’m not shy. You’d be shocked, amore, and I ashamed. . . but there it is, I can’t help myself.”

Her skin has a faint lemony smell. My own skin tingles, the hair rises on my arms. My mind swarms with a carnality become sublime, the smooth sweet flesh, so close, so close, the wispy hair near her ear that moves with her breathing, the remorseless, unplumbed eyes.
.
.
.
.
How to live?

Who knows the question knows not how.
Who knows not the question cannot tell.

Who knows the question lives in conflict, makes choices, sees that each choice obliterates its opposite, and has learned that the needs of the individual and the needs of others contend and intersect in ways so complex and confusing that no sure answer is possible.

Who knows not the question is mute. The birds in flight cannot instruct us, nor the shy deer, nor the cobra poised to strike. They know how, know so unreflectively they cannot tell. We can’t go back.
.
.
.
.
But the question that cannot be answered cannot, either, be shelved. We cannot stop living until we have learned how. The train is moving. No itinerary, no briefing, no classes for beginners. We’re on our way. Our first improvisation is our one chance to do it right.

VIII

Loss
.
.
.
.
I am a believer who knows that all meaning is illusion, yet am driven ceaselessly to seek it, achieving thereby the worst of both worlds, retaining neither the stoicism of the one who stands unmoving in the blistering desert, nor the hope of the one who stumbles on after the shimmering blue water.

We affirm a continuing deathless passion, but it is not the same. It has lost its wildness and voracity, has become a passion remembered, a passion respected, a passion manque.

There can be no contract in loving. What comes is a blessing, one is not entitled to it, can lay no claim when it is lost, one gives as one can.

Maybe the right way to fall in love is to accept at the outset that it won’t last. Accept, not in the sense of resigning one’s self to a sad inevitability, but in the sense of celebrating a process that unavoidably entails the ending of a passion that presently appears as life’s supreme value.

Looking at her, I should not feel the ache of future loss, but an unmixed celebration of what I now have. I should accept change not because I cannot anyway prevent it, but because it is life itself. Love and the end of love, like life and death, must be praised as one.

The danger in striving for permanence is not that one will fail, but that one may in some stifled measure succeed, thereby preserving a fading relationship behind a mask of love that falls increasingly at variance with the withering face behind it. Yearning for permanence is failure of nerve, cowardice in face of the risks and opportunities of living.

I am as if brain-damaged. Life has distanced itself, is taking place behind a veil; and sometimes, surrounded by books, I realize I don’t want to read, and, wrenched by longing, that I don’t want music, and it will seem to me that I am reaching into myself for a silence beyond the absence of sound, for a stolen preview perhaps of that stillness that lies on the other side.
.
.
.
.
IX

Love
.
.
.
.
Falling in love is a madness. No treatment is required, indeed none is effective. It is self-limited in time, recovery is certain and spontaneous. In the aftermath, however, one may find oneself joined for life to a partner one would not in any normal state have chosen.

The disorder generally runs a benign course. But it is a madness. One loses contact with reality, clutches jealously to one’s breast something one believes to be a treasure while everyone else sees plainly it is but an ordinary loaf of bread.

The opportunity to love is ever-present. No one, in his loneliness, need ever say, “I wish I had someone to love.” That someone is right there. The trouble is she has become real, while only the still-imaginary inspires us to love.

We say we want love, and surely we do, but we want it to flow toward us, a great wave splashing over us, bountifully; we are not so eager that it flow outward, away from us to others who might need it more than we.

We live by attachment, not by reason. There is no value without caring, and caring is loving. That’s the point: one’s own life has value only because one cares for others. And one cares without a reason! Without reflection, without the weighing of profit and loss. The caring that justifies everything else is itself without justification. It is a leap.

Attachments grow in the dark, like roots. Silently, invisibly, they extend themselves in heart-soil, anchoring us in the world. To go on living then is not elective; we cannot depart this life, we are held by invincible tendrils.

After arriving at the peak of sexual desirability we begin a long process of decline. Imperceptible for a few years, but then beyond overlooking. We are becoming less lovable. There’s no stopping it short of dying young. And if we live long enough-proceed far enough into ugliness and decay-we are not lovable at all. Whatever attention still comes our way flows from duty, however well camouflaged as caring.

Concurrently, as we grow older, we become less and less able to love others, and if we live long enough we become incapable of loving at all, our concern reaching then no further than our pains and malfunctions. Irritably aware of the diminishment of love coming toward us, we tend not to notice that we, equally, are giving less to others. To grow old gracefully one must accept, without protest or dismay, the diminishment of incoming love. More, one must anticipate it, always positioning oneself to receive less than that which is voluntarily offered.

Never ask or plead or sue for love. The time for wooing is over, this is the time for farewell.

Two things I know for sure about love: no one ever gets enough, and you can’t get more by asking. To the beggar for money a few real coins may fall, but the beggar for love is a fool. Into his upturned hat, along with the humiliation, will fall only scraps of guilt and duty falsely labeled as love. The only way to get more love is to give more love. The only way to get more love is to give more love.

Beware! Wooing may be hidden. Too much giving, too much attentiveness, too many presents, may be but the mask for asking. You’ve had your turn; now get out of the way. Make room for others.

Who can map the vast terrain of love? The sublime heights, the dismal swamps. There are no certified experts, anyone may try his hand. What do I know about love? What varieties have fallen to me? What has been meant when a woman has said to me, I love you?
.
.
.
.

Of Human Bondage – W. Somerset Maugham

.
.
.
.
IX
.
.
.
.
One day a good fortune befell him, for he hit upon Lane’s translation of The Thousand Nights and a Night. He was captured first by the illustrations, and then he began to read, to start with, the stories that dealt with magic, and then the others; and those he liked he read again and again. He could think of nothing else. He forgot the life about him. He had to be called two or three times before he would come to his dinner. Insensibly he formed the most delightful habit in the world, the habit of reading: he did not know that thus he was providing himself with a refuge from all the distress of life; he did not know either that he was creating for himself an unreal world which would make the real world of every day a source of bitter disappointment.
.
.
.
.
XIII
.
.
.
.
But he had grown very self-conscious. The new-born child does not realise that his body is more a part of himself than surrounding objects, and will play with his toes without any feeling that they belong to him more than the rattle by his side; and it is only by degrees, through pain, that he understands the fact of the body. And experiences of the same kind are necessary for the individual to become conscious of himself; but here there is the difference that, although everyone becomes equally conscious of his body as a separate and complete organism, everyone does not become equally conscious of himself as a complete and separate personality. The feeling of apartness from others comes to most with puberty, but it is not always developed to such a degree as to make the difference between the individual and his fellows noticeable to the individual. It is such as he, as little conscious of himself as the bee in a hive, who are the lucky in life, for they have the best chance of happiness:their activities are shared by all, and their pleasures are only pleasures because they are enjoyed in common; you will see them on
Whit-Monday dancing on Hampstead Heath, shouting at a football match, or from club windows in Pall Mall cheering a royal procession. It is because of them that man has been called a social animal.
.
.
.
.
CVI
.
.
.
.
Thinking of Cronshaw, Philip remembered the Persian rug which he had given him, telling him that it offered an answer to his question upon the meaning of life; and suddenly the answer occurred to him: he chuckled: now that he had it, it was like one of the puzzles which you worry over till you are shown the solution and then cannot imagine how it could ever have escaped you. The answer was obvious. Life had no meaning. On the earth, satellite of a star speeding through space, living things had arisen under the influence of conditions which were part of the planet’s history; and as there had been a beginning of life upon it so, under the influence of other conditions, there would be an end: man, no more significant than other forms of life, had come not as the climax of creation but as a physical reaction to the environment. Philip remembered the story of the Eastern King who, desiring to know the history of man, was brought by a sage five hundred volumes; busy with affairs of state, he bade him go and condense it; in twenty years the sage returned and his history now was in no more than fifty volumes, but the King, too old then to read so many ponderous tomes, bade him go and shorten it once more; twenty years passed again and the sage, old and gray, brought a single book in which was the knowledge the King had sought; but the King lay on his death-bed, and he had no time to read even that; and then the sage gave him the history of man in a single line; it was this: he was born, he suffered, and he died. There was no meaning in life, and man by living served no end. It was immaterial whether he was born or not born, whether he lived or ceased to live. Life was insignificant and death without consequence. Philip exulted, as he had exulted in his boyhood when the weight of a belief in God was lifted from his shoulders: it seemed to him that the last burden of responsibility was taken from him; and for the first time he was utterly free. His insignificance was turned to power, and he felt himself suddenly equal with the cruel fate which had seemed to persecute him; for, if life was meaningless, the world was robbed of its cruelty. What he did or left undone did not matter. Failure was unimportant and success amounted to nothing. He was the most  inconsiderate creature in that swarming mass of mankind which for a brief space occupied the surface of the earth; and he was almighty because he had wrenched from chaos the secret of its nothingness. Thoughts came tumbling over one another in Philip’s eager fancy, and he took long breaths of joyous satisfaction. He felt inclined to leap and sing. He had not been so happy for months.

“Oh, life,” he cried in his heart, “Oh life, where is thy sting?”

For the same uprush of fancy which had shown him with all the force of mathematical demonstration that life had no meaning, brought with it another idea; and that was why Cronshaw, he imagined, had given him the Persian rug. As the weaver elaborated his pattern for no end but the pleasure of his aesthetic sense, so might a man live his life, or if one was forced to believe that his actions were outside his choosing, so might a man look at his life, that it made a pattern. There was as little need to do this as there was use. It was merely something he did for his own pleasure. Out of the manifold events of his life, his deeds, his feelings, his thoughts, he might make a design, regular, elaborate, complicated, or beautiful; and though it might be no more than an illusion that he had the power of selection, though it might be no more than a fantastic legerdemain in which appearances were interwoven with moonbeams, that did not matter: it seemed, and so to him it was. In the vast warp of life (a river arising from no spring and flowing endlessly to no sea), with the background to his fancies that there was no meaning and that nothing was important, a man might get a personal satisfaction in selecting the various strands that worked out the pattern. There was one pattern, the most obvious, perfect, and beautiful, in which a man was born, grew to manhood, married, produced children, toiled for his bread, and died; but there were others, intricate and wonderful, in which happiness did not enter and in which success was not attempted; and in them might be discovered a more troubling grace. Some lives, and Hayward’s was among them, the blind indifference of chance cut off while the design was still imperfect; and then the solace was comfortable that it did not matter; other lives, such as Cronshaw’s, offered a pattern which was difficult to follow, the point of view had to be shifted and old standards had to be altered before one could understand that such a life was its own justification. Philip thought that in throwing over the desire for happiness he was casting
aside the last of his illusions. His life had seemed horrible when it was measured by its happiness, but now he seemed to gather strength as he realised that it might be measured by something else. Happiness mattered as little as pain. They came in, both of them, as all the other details of his life came in, to the elaboration of the design. He seemed for an instant to stand above the accidents of his existence, and he felt that they could not affect him again as they had done before. Whatever happened to him now would be one more motive to add to the complexity of the pattern, and when the end approached he would rejoice in its completion. It would be a work of art, and it would be none the less beautiful because he alone knew of its existence, and with his death it would at once cease to be.

Himalaya: Through the Lens of a Sadhu – Swami Sundaranand

The glinting hair –

are they conveying something …

The wistful eyes –

are they speaking something …

The painted lips –

are they carrying some message …

Only the Camera knows.

Management Gurus – TT Ram Mohan – 31 Oct 2009

The Schumpeter column of the Economist mentions three irritating habits of management gurus (the number is a sarcastic reference to these gurus’ penchant for reducing all topics to a given number of ‘easy steps’):

The first is presenting stale ideas as breathtaking breakthroughs. In a recent speech in London Mr (Stephen) Covey declared capitalism to be in the middle of a “paradigm shift” from industrial management (which treats people as things) to knowledge-age management (which tries to unleash creativity)……But management gurus have been making this point for decades. William Ouchi announced it in 1981 in the guise of “Theory Z”. Elton Mayo and Mary Parker Follet had made much the same point 60 years before. It makes you long for some out-of-the-box thinker who will argue that the future belongs to companies that are unfit for human beings (which it may well do).

The second irritating habit is that of naming model firms. Mr Covey littered his speech in London with references to companies he thinks are outstandingly well managed, including, bizarrely, General Motors’ Saturn division, which is going out of business. Tom Peters launched his career with “In Search of Excellence” in 1982. ……………Five years after “In Search of Excellence” appeared, a third of its ballyhooed companies were in trouble.

The third irritating habit is the flogging of management tools off the back of numbered lists or facile principles. ………….But most of these rules are nothing more than wet fingers in the wind. Gurus preach the virtues of “core competences”. But in the developing world many highly diversified companies are sweeping all before them.

Which points to the most irritating thing of all about management gurus: that their failures only serve to stoke demand for their services.

The article also points out that one of the gurus’ fecundity is not confined to the literary realm:

Mr Covey is working on nine other books, including one on how to end crime. He also presides over a business empire that is even more sprawling than his ever-growing family (he had 51 grandchildren as The Economist went to press)

My own view on management gurus is that there is only one original in the business and that is Peter Drucker. He said whatever needed to be said on the subject. The rest is elaboration, refinement or just plain repetition.