New Ideas Are Critical for Progress (Brief Item #86)

(7/2/20] … each stage of the long process is ushered in by a new idea that has to overcome the interests vested in old ideas, that has to seek realization through the risks of enterprise, that can yield its full fruit only when adapted and modified by a thousand strokes of creative imagination.  And every idea, once it has borne its fruit, has to reconcile itself to death.  A new idea is new only when it first appears.  It comes to man not as a possession forever but only as a transient servant; it has its day, glorious or foul; it lives for a period that is long or short according to its generality, but it may be succeeded by other alternatives, and in any case it will be transformed, perhaps beyond recognition, by higher generalizations.  Thus the stagecoach disappeared before the train, the clipper ships gave way to steamers, domestic spinning wheels and looms were concentrated in power-driven factories, money changers yielded place to bill brokers, brokers to banks and financiers. 

… for society to progress towards that or any other goal it must fulfill one condition.  It cannot be a titanothore, a beast with a three-ton body and a ten-ounce brain. It must not direct its main effort to the ordinary final product of standard of living but to the overhead final product of cultural implements.  It must not glory in its widening, in adding industry to industry, and feeding the soul of man with an abundant demand for labor.  It must glory in the deepening, in the pure deepening that adds to aggregate leisure, to liberate many entirely and all increasingly to the field of cultural activities.

The cultural overhead and the deepening that releases man to leisure and culture are also essential parts – parts too easily overlooked – in the world rhythm of economic transformations.  Nor will it suffice to have some highest common factor of culture, to accept the physical sciences but not bother about their higher integration on the plea that that is too difficult, too obscure, too unsettled, too remote.  That was titanothore’s attitude to brain, and titanothore is extinct. (CWL 21, 20 – 21) [#86] (Click here for previous “Single Paragraphs” or “Brief Items”)

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