Wednesday, September 30, 2009

i-TFTD #221: Writers on Change and Action

i-TFTD #221: Writers on Change and Action

#221-1. Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth.
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, writer (1804-1864)

221-2. All I ask is this: Do something. Try something. Speaking out, showing up, writing a letter, a check, a strongly worded e-mail. Pick a causethere are few unworthy ones. And nudge yourself past the brink of tacit support to action. Once a month, once a year, or just once.
-Joss Whedon, writer and film director (b. 1964)

221-3. Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying 'End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH', the paint wouldn't even have time to dry.
-Terry Pratchett, novelist (b. 1948)

On the surface these quotes are unrelated: on planting and exploring, on action orientation and on stupidly mischievous tendencies. I like to relate seemingly unconnected things. The first quote underscores the importance of change of role, environment or knowledge domain in order to achieve growth. This applies especially to accomplished and experienced folk who tend to stay in a comfort zone. The second exhorts each of us to initiate such change if the organization or circumstances do not provide it in the natural course of events. The third could be seen as a word of caution against doing something for doing’s sake. It can also be a salute to the innate curiosity of humans. Isn’t that what has given us all of philosophy, science, innovation and any kind of progress?

 I have always been intrigued by the emphasis on roots. Long ago, I used to envy those who had knowledge of and pride in their belonging to well-known categories of communities identified by their own place of birth or that of their parents or grandparents. Or the profession of their ancestors. But I could never cultivate such a tribal instinctindeed, it diminished from negligible to zero to negative (i.e., anti-tribalistic preferences) as I read more of history and evolutionary biology. This topic deserves a longer article that I ought to write. For now, I am content with being a typical root-less, big-city-bred person who is biased favorably towards fusion, progress, novelty, globalization, modernization, the scientific spirit and even fresh perspectives on ancient universals.

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