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‘The Initiative Individual’
The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant: Summation 5
V. Character and History
The authors pulled themselves out of the convention of the identity languor and into a realm inhabited by Dick, that of the genius, who they group along with “great men” and “the hero” as “initiative” individuals or actionists to include politicians and inventors.
They begin simply enough:
“Society is founded not on the ideals but on the nature of man, and the constitution of man rewrites the constitution of states.”
The authors then construct a stilted table of characteristics, as if designing a role playing game for robots in which instincts, habits and feelings are each broken into positive and negative, such as:
Action and sleep being positive and negative instincts
Play and rest being positive and negative habits
Buoyancy and fatigue being positive and negative feelings
It makes sense enough in the abstract but fails on contact with reality. I’m inclined to forgive the professional thinkers their journey into platonic forms which so bedeviled Dick and which he rejected, possibly based on his creative perspective—in the same way I divert from my teachers here perhaps did he. Of course, so did Aristotle, with much respect diverge from Plato.
Such over-thought framings do propel the creative thinker, much as the stodgy civilization of Great Britain launched Richard Burton and Winston Churchill at the wider and longer-willed world. I am inclined to find such reading an inspiration to dreaming and perhaps Dick did too.
The authors then regain their stride and examine the intersection of “great men” and civilization, in part as “an exaltation of crisis” which they fail to define for what it was, the monster Civilization awakening the barbarian shaman or hero within to corrective action.
“The imitative majority follows the innovative minority,” the authors rightly declare and paint the brushstroke of cultural decline neatly, as greatness breeds weakness and boldness breeds meekness. Society is then describes as a necessary soul for what the authors see as the monster that is undomesticated man. Being the High priest and Priestess of one iteration of Civilization, this reader would expect no less than an aversion to its counterforce. They conclude with a statement on the value of the tension of opposite states, plights and genders in a way very evocative of Julius Evola in his Metaphysics of War.
And, in the purely masturbative metaphysical realm of spiritual self-improvement, Dick, tripping on acid and writing novel after novel while these two relics of an earlier age catalogued its decline, would typify, for good or ill, the hero-type to slide from its tilting deck into the sea of information rising to engulf the uneducable mass that is the collectively feral postmodern mind.
Dick remains deeply fascinating. But in a world where he is hero, man is zero.
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