Thursday, November 29, 2007

Crawling Through the Temporal Pneumaduct with the Apocalypse Around the Corner (11.09.10)

One thing reasonable people should be able to agree upon is that wisdom exists, that it is a very different thing than "knowledge," and that it tends to inhere in the group as opposed to the individual, since a group's experience will be so much more wide and deep, i.e., extending far into the past and encompassing the knowledge and experience of countless older ansisters and brothers.

No one individual in a single lifetime could possibly experiment with every way of living and determine which was best. You can't start life from "zero," with a pneumacognitive blank slate, any more than you could do so with a genetic one.

Genes, for example, may not embody wisdom per se, but they do encode an inconceivable amount of information about the world in general and about the "average expected environment" in particular. Thanks to our genes, we don't have to learn how to recognize human faces, how to bond with others, or how to speak. Rather, these things will all come naturally if we are simply placed in a human environment.

There was also a time when we didn't have to think too much about philosophy, or about metaphysics, or about God, because it had all been done for us by groups that preceded and enveloped us. It has only been about 300-400 years that religion (in the West, anyway) went from being an unconscious matrix to a conscious enterprise that must be carried out by the individual.

While this creates spiritual obstacles that never existed in the past, it also creates unprecedented upportunities for spiritual growth. For example, the most unsane visionary of medieval times could not possibly have conceived of a day when one could so easily purchase an indulgence over the internet from Petey, my household gnome.

There are two major contemporary obstacles to spiritual growth, materialism, and its corollary, the idea of progress. I'm currently in the middle of a fascinating book that discusses this, The Order of the Ages: World History in the Light of a Universal Cosmogony, by Robert Bolton. Bolton points out that our traditional division of the human adventure into prehistory, history and post-history is not exactly accurate. This is because prehistory didn't really end 5000 years ago, or whenever written records begin.

Rather, for all intents and purposes, prehistory continued until the time of the scientific revolution, which didn't really get underway until the 17th century. Consider, for example, ancient Egypt. Although it is considered a part of history, it "retained the same theocratic form for some five thousand years without any radical or irreversible change in its spiritual or social order."

This is a rather staggering idea to contemplate; I'm not so sure we even can contemplate it, since we are so imbued with the ideas of progress, change, and evolution, which were inconceivable for the ancients.

As Mead suggested in God and Gold, I don't think we understand the extent to which we are all -- religious and secular alike -- living in a world with such radically different assumptions than any humans who existed previously. In short, we are consciously living in history, and must therefore cope with linear, irreversible time, whereas premodern peoples lived in a more timeless state -- or, to be perfectly accurate, a cyclically temporal state that resonated with eternity.

Traditionalists maintain -- and they may well be correct about this -- that this premodern, timeless mode is normative for human beings, and that we were never meant to be where we are "in history." Certainly the numbers are on their side, given that human beings only stumbled into this thing called "history" so recently. Perhaps life is so confusing because we are not supposed to be here -- we literally drifted into this strange temporal viaduct, and now we can't get out or find our way back into the timeless (which is the purpose of religion).

Again, it's almost impossible for us to think in this way, because we have to eliminate from our minds all of the anxiety that goes along with the temporal mode, which is also intrinsically quantitative and materialistic.

For example, we are naturally very concerned with the linear amount of time we spend on the planet -- the quantity of our years -- in such a way that it can eclipse the actual moment-to-moment quality of our life. Part of the reason for this is that in the modern world, quality no longer resonates with eternity, so it might as well be just more quantity.

In other words, in the modern world even quality tends to be reduced to quantity. We can all experience this, for example, in the bland "flattening" of aesthetic qualities. Most everything is constantly "different," and yet, just more of the same.

This especially becomes noticeable if you are able to step outside history and live in a more timeless mode. There is a kind of constant change which, ironically, is no change at all, since change is only possible in light of permanence. If everything is changing, then it is logically equivalent to nothing changing -- like fashion, it's difference without a difference, or mere agitation on the surface. So it's a kind of timelessness, but somehow the opposite of the timeless plenum enjoyed by our premodern furbears. How to describe it? It's sort of an empty plenum or overflowing vacuum, is it not? A cornucrapia of BS.

Now, just when you were getting used the idea of being condemned to history, Bolton points out that we are actually no longer living there. Rather, that ended way back in -- well, people can argue over exactly when history ended, but it was definitely over by the start of the 20th century.

History over? How can that be? World War I, World War II, communism, the British invasion, the collected poetry of Suzanne Somers? Yes, just agitations in the posthistorical void.

Bolton notes that as late as the fourteenth century there was "nothing that need necessarily have led to anything different after another five hundred years, whereas the pattern of changes from the fifteenth century onward was unmistakably cumulative." So that is when history truly began. But it was very, very different from our post-historical situation, since it still resonated with the timelessness that preceded it, and in fact, can be seen as a sort of "prolongation" of those timeless qualities, only now concretized in time.

With the entrance into history proper, Bolton writes that it was as if a damn had burst, so that all of the potential in these eternal ideas flooded out into time. But eventually the force of the "explosion" weakens, until we have reached our present state of exhaustion, in which we are collectively more distant than ever from the living principles that animated our civilization.

To a large extent, time, history, and change are all tied in with the development of science, which, for the first time, introduced real -- and seemingly inevitable -- progress. However, again, our technical progress over the past few hundred years is so "directly demonstrable and tangible" that it "can almost stifle any sense that something else may have been lost at the same time." In fact, Bolton argues that these tangible changes serve to reorient us to matter, which has the consequence of masking "a relentless loss of both a consciousness and of a spiritual energy of a far more essential kind."

According to Bolton, this has to do with the nature of time and our fall into materiality and quantity, and the consequent historical movement away from a kind of consciousness that is no longer familiar to us. Or, to be perfectly accurate, it is still accessible, but it must be self-willed. For reasons we will get into later, in the post-historical world, consciousness contracts unless active counter-measures are taken.

To be continued....

I have remarked that the materialist, like the madman, is in prison; in the prison of one thought. These people seemed to think it singularly inspiring to keep on saying that the prison was very large.... these expanders of the universe had nothing to show us except more and more infinite corridors of space lit by ghastly suns and empty of all that is divine. -G.K. Chesterton


will said...

>>In the post-historical world, consciousness contracts unless active counter-measures are taken<<

Maybe that's the whole idea. The post-historical world might mark the end of "magical consciousness", ie., aboriginal/spiritual consciousness, in the same way that adulthood strips an individual of the natural spiritual consciousness of childhood. In either case, spirituality in its ultimate individuation must be self-willed (active counter-measures), not merely bestowed by nature - this would make sense if the cosmos does indeed intend to produce a genuine partner to the Originator.

I think the post-historical creation of large cities, spelling the end of a mostly agrarian, nature-oriented existence, illustrates this. A certain mode of spiritual consciousness was surely lost, perhaps necessarily so, so that the booming voice of nature and its dictates could lose its grip on human consciousness.

As St. John of the Cross explained, the spiritual novice is granted one grace, one holy ecstasy after another, until times comes for spiritual adulthood - at which point all graces are removed and the aspirant must consciously struggle in the Dark Night. In some ways, I think, the post-historical world parallels this Night.

walt said...

Funny how different subjects in your various posts "speak" to folks, more one day, and less on others. This one really woke me up!

Since "great understanding is broad and unhurried," I'll not say too much, but go back and try to understand the implications of Bolton's ideas. At a minimum, they seem to point toward something important.

This idea -- " the modern world even quality tends to be reduced to quantity. We can all experience this, for example, in the bland "flattening" of aesthetic qualities. Most everything is constantly "different," and yet, just more of the same." -- pervades the whole consumer culture, and affects every business, as all objects become "commodities" and the only "value" an object can have it expressed as price, or quantity, or speed of distribution. I saw this up close and personal in my business.

"...quality no longer resonates with eternity, so it might as well be just more quantity." Those few words cut to the core and summarize our modern dilemma. Very exact!

"It's sort of an empty plenum or overflowing vacuum, is it not?"
Reminds me of a Russian saying that translates as, "Pouring from the empty into the void."

And finally, "...consciousness contracts unless active counter-measures are taken."
Gee, d'ya think?

Very provocative post!

Gagdad Bob said...


Very interesting.... I was thinking of how Joyce's Finnegans Wake has the same repeating four-part cyclicity featured in so much premodern thought, except that it takes place at night, in the confusing dream world, instead of by day....

at in la said...

Speaking of living "outside history and in a more timeless mode", I highly recommend a film called "Into Great Silence". Has anyone else seen it?

Van said...

"One thing reasonable people should be able to agree upon is that wisdom exists, that it is a very different thing than "knowledge,""

You would think so, but it's a bit hard to buy in a culture that assumes that degrees, earned in large part through bubble tests and popularity, mark you as a goto guy for the wise course to follow "So Dr. Sagan, phd astronomer that you are, what should we do about the climate and can you tell us why Capitalism is as bad a thing as it is?"
"No, sorry, I'm dead at the moment."
"So there you have it, man is destroying the planet and is just plain cruel and unfair to his fellow man - back to you Katie."

and then "... and that it tends to inhere in the group as opposed to the individual..."

Gasp! You are denying children the opportunity to express their individuality! We're all wise in our own way!

People will need to begin looking up again, before they will admit the truth in that. It'd be nice if reasonable people were Reasonable, but too many are just too smart for that.

"There are two huge contemporary obstacles to spiritual growth, materialism, and its corollary, the idea of progress."

The later of course being an expression of the former. The idea that horizontal change alone, as you pointed out, is Progress, is the product of a flattened scale - like a cartesian graph with only one axis - it is movement that goes nowhere.

"Bolton points out that we are actually no longer living in history. Rather, that ended way back in -- well, people can argue over exactly when history ended, but it was definitely over by the start of the 20th century. History over?"

I've got a little problem grabbing ahold of this one... though the sentiment certainly resonates. While I do agree that we haven't Progressed much (there have been a couple conceptual breakthroughs, but which haven't broken out yet into practice - Polyani was on the trail of several of them) since the end of the 18th century, but I don't think that history has reached an end, so much as it has reached a depth plateau.

It's been noted before that History seems to rise and plateau awhile before continuing on upwards... I'm thinking it might be easier to imagine by inverting that image, thinking of progress as digging deeper. When some eager beaver's dig down on one end, they and the rest then have pause, even give up depth Progress in order to struggle with collapsing sides and cavein's as the wider population attempts to reach a common depth.

There's a whole lot of ground to be cleared back out, before progress towards the core resumes.

Great post, looking forward to the follow ups.

James said...

A cornucrapia of BS


Lately, I've been trying to come out of my shell and become more social. The most disappointing thing about waking up from my nightmare of nerddom is how much BS you need to wade through to socialize with most people. It makes me wish for my shell again. Needless to say, I enjoy the socializing, but the cornucrapia is just depressing. I think I understand why you need to get away from others for spiritual growth to occur.

Coonified said...

Nomo said:

Coonified - I don't think it really matters what R. Maharshi said, God said it.

You so funny nomo.
I like you!
Never did I doubt I AM for a moment.

Oh yea, and the apocalypse...
I've got to say, I don't feel it, or if I do feel it, it's personal problem. Even though I've had apocalyptic dreams most of my life, the more those titans are thrown off, the more faith in life seems to reflect over into the people. I know one thing though: Love can melt through anything with enough time, even the densest and most inconscient matter, and that took, what, like 13 billion years? This is a hell of a ride, I admit.

I think, maybe, that the "point of supreme optimism," which certainly can't be reduced to some secular utopianism, is progress itself, for precisly the reason that it is permanence and at the same time pure novelty, like Gagdad says. Gosh, I don't even question these things anymore. They're taken as self-evident truisms, even though mass consensus is a long way away.


"in the same way that adulthood strips an individual of the natural spiritual consciousness of childhood."

I don't believe that children come even close to what we would normally call "a natural spiritual consciousness." Certainly, growing up seems blissful b/c we're actually growing most of the time, but that's due to the grace of family. To me, the Eden of childhood is unconscious hell. I'd rather grow up.

"A certain mode of spiritual consciousness was surely lost,"

You'll never convince me that the mass, at anytime in history, has ever been happy--as in salvation happiness. Even in today's world, what most people call happiness is just suffering, and it's self perpetuating because there's a part of ourselves that enjoys pain! That's discusting to me! But, alas, I observe it not only in myself, but in my family also. I'll keep that to myself, though.

Van said:

"I don't think that history has reached an end, so much as it has reached a depth plateau."

I feel that.

James said...


I think your right. One way to think about the worlds problems is we were cast out into the night and most of us were not ready. I certainly wasn't. There are a lot of lost people out there. I think that is why there is so much BS.

dilys said...

Both the post and comments open big doors.

First, I agree we humans had to escape the often-ecstatic siren song of Pure Nature, whose worship almost always required repetitive blood sacrifice to fertilize the earth, death priming the pump for life -- as in a harvest. So more blood was required yearly.

I am also reminded of a theme which had no meaning for me until a later stage of life: Shakespeare's Prospero in the "happy ending" of The Tempest throwing his books of magic into the sea. Renouncing, after all the adventure, the non-ordinary. Related somehow to moving from faith being clutched as manipulative I'm-a-favored-child, to faith as simple, affectionate, respectful friendship (as well as awe for the transcendent). Much of the tonality of religiosity is closer to dancing around a blood-trickling platform at Chichén Itzá than strengthening a friendship. Yet the Trinitarian revelation's summit is "I have called you friends."

Like other American adherents to the Orthodox traditions, the whole issue of tribalism and ethnicity rolled up into religion (a key factor in much traditionalist conception of meaning) intermittently preoccupies me. So I was interested to find this outcropping of stern religious individualism in the Tanach, the book of Ezekiel [593 to 571 BC]. If any lineage would suggest a corporate and ethnic locus for religion to be effective, I thought it would be Jewish. Yet "the Soverign Lord" warns that "even if Jonah, Daniel, and Job" were in the land, their advanced state would not save others. Each seems responsible for his own "righteousness." A profound note dear to moderns, reformers and mystics.

gumshoe said...

"Ultimately we are coming back to the question of whether progress actually exists..."

while not denigrating the material progress of the last 500 years
(via science),i think the
tradtionalist view of mankind
and its views of "human nature"
have been somewhat skeptical
about "human progress" over the same period.

the brutalities of the 20th C. can either be seen as human "backsliding" or simply "more of the same" with deadlier technology.

then again,they can be seen as signs of something markedly *worse* than the past,"the ancients"

i think, bob, the reason
i find OC to be a vital read is that "true progress" has to humble itself before a tradition of wisdom
that has a fairly long history.

your recent quotes re:Chesterton's prescience make the general theme clear, as do your comments that "free thinkers" tend to discover that many of their thoughts "are not new!".

Bob,have you read much Y Gasset or Jacques Ellul's "The Technological Society"(Vintage,Oct67)??:

"No social, human, or spiritual fact is so important as the fact of technique in the modern world..."

Lisa said...

The creation of large cities also generates a lot of artificial light which actually obscures the twilight and stars. People are never really in the dark so to speak...I wonder if it throws off some natural rhythms or deeply planted knowledge of the cosmos. But I've never been a country girl, so I have no basis for comparison. I don't think I am explaining this very clearly but it's always so contradictory.

Gagdad Bob said...

--"progress" has to humble itself before a tradition of wisdom that has a fairly long history.

I was thinking just the same thing, otherwise we are headed for a huge fall.

With regard to the "end of history," that will require some further explanation, as in many ways it is the central point of the book, so I have to finish reading it.

Robin Starfish said...

Presentation of Colors
o say can you see
half conceals half discloses
in who is our trust

River Cocytus said...

oi. I blame Calvin; but then, that's like blaming anyone. Human error is at fault no doubt for our spiritual distress. I think we, in spiritual progress, forgot the world; and when the world remembered itself and us, we forgot about the Spirit. And now the Spirit is remembering us and the world, and it's much like the forming of a pearl.

will said...

Another possible analogy with post-historical "night", ie., the dimming of spiritual consciousness, might be that of the relatively recent scientific investigation into sub-atomic reality, if that could be termed a "reality" per se.

The realm of the sub-atomic appears to be chaotic - just how it interfaces with what we think of as the world of form and stability is unknown, entirely open to conjecture. However, a hint as to its "meaning" seems to be that in certain measure, the sub-atomic realm is subject to and shapes itself in accordance with human concentration, observation, thought.

In this context, I suppose that the sub-atomic realm could be considered a symbolic "night city", a realm of unspiritualized chaos that can be spiritualized, but only through our conscious efforts.

River Cocytus said...

Will, sounds like the Second Heaven, or The City of Twilight. Twilight is the time in which the sky grows dimmer and the stars brighter...

Smoov said...

Just when I think Bob cannot surpass himself...

Gagdad Bob said...


Bolton gets into that very idea -- that the most basic duality in existence is matter and form, and that matter is not "material" per se, but the realm of formless chaos that can only be given form by consciousness. More later....

gumshoe said...

bob -

give this webpage on Ellul a quick skim through...think you'll find it useful Re:"Progress":

Jacques Ellul


"One of the most thoughtful philosophers to approach technology from a deterministic, and some have even argued fatalistic [23], position is Jacques Ellul. Professor at the University of Bordeaux, Ellul authored some 40 books and hundreds of articles over his lifetime [24], the dominant theme of which has been, according to Fasching (1981), "the threat to human freedom and Christian faith created by modern technology" (p. 1). Ellul's constant theme has been one of technological tyranny over humanity. As a philosopher and theologian [25], Ellul explored the religiosity of the technological society.

Ellul became a Marxist at age 19, and a Christian at 22 (Fasching, p. 2). His religious faith evolved out of the Death of God movement and the response of the neo-orthodox theologians Bultmann, Barth, Niebuhr and Tillich. According to Fasching, the Barthian dialectic, in which the gospel both judges and renews the world, helped to shape Ellul's theological perspective (p. 7). For Ellul, "that which desacralizes a given reality, itself in turn becomes the new sacred reality" (p. 35).

The sacred is then, as classically defined, the object of both hope and fear, both fascination and dread. Once nature was the all-encompassing environment and power upon which human beings were dependent in life and death and so was experienced as sacred. (Fasching, p. 34).

In support of his theory, Fasching offered the following examples. Christianity desacralized nature, after which Christianity became sacred. The Reformation desacralized the church in the name of the bible, and the Bible became the sacred book. Science and reason desacralized the scriptures, and since that time Science has become sacred. Today, argued Ellul, it is the technological society that we hold sacred."

ximeze said...

Vanster, how's the hangover?

Keep the photo! That smile makes me smile too. Reminds me of Richard Feynman: brains & humor. See:

Really gotta learn how to do hyperlinks

Also not unlike the image of him that lives on my wall, so we can smile back & forth to each-other:

Now I have to go back & read AGAIN today's post.....there's a question, just out of reach, on the tip of my brain......?

River Cocytus said...

Hmm, the trouble with Fasching's theory is that... it doesn't match up with experience? Our feeling of sacredness does not change the reality of sacredness. I see his point about changing feelings - but I guess as a determinist maybe he has difficulty with the distinction of affections and greater spiritual realities...

Suffice it to say that with the Orthodox nature never ceased to have a sacredness to it, and the Bible had a sacredness before the Reformation. (Have you seen a Matins service where the Book is venerated? Very odd for people who don't call it 'inerrant'!)

My question is what is his point?

Well, let me read, but those are my initial thoughts. I can't help but sense an underlying narrative being advanced by his particular ideas...

will said...

Dilys -

>>Each seems responsible for his own "righteousness." A profound note dear to moderns, reformers and mystics<<

Well, ultimately the only person we are responsible for - in terms of ultimate spiritual realization - is ourselves. So, the prophets might be in the land, busy saving themselves, but . . . a rising tide lifts all boats. One soul struggling in the night toward illumination might not be able to completely save others, but such a soul certainly makes it easier for other struggling souls to perceive the Light. Of this, I am convinced.

Van said...

"This needn't necessarily be thought of in an explicitly religious way. I'm thinking, for example, of Van der Leun's reverence for the 16th century essayist Montaigne, whose.... essaying remains unsurpassed over 400 years later."

Oh do I agree with that one, Montaigne's my favorite - can't help but wonder what he would have thought of & done with a blog...

Van said...

ximeze said... "Vanster, how's the hangover?"

Heh - one potential health risk I have (had), and that just made life rotten for the band when we travelled, is that I don't get hangovers. Just don't get 'em.

I used to drink like a fish, martini's, screwdrivers, kamikaze's, Scotch & mucho brewskies all in a night. If there was a looong afterparty, I'd still bounce out of bed in the morning & start cooking breakfast. Almost every time, as the bacon went wafting thickly down the hall, I'd hear at least one "augh damn! He's at it again!" as they lurched off to worship the porcelain god.

Finally, a new keyboard player asked "How much did you drink last night!?", and as I went through ticking off drinks on my fingers several times through, it dawned on me that even if I didn't notice it, my liver probably did, and I called a halt to it.

Nowadays, if I even attempted those numbers, I'm sure I'd pass out cold (just a drink or two past last nights) - but I'll still wake up smiling.


will said...

Coonified -

>>To me, the Eden of childhood is unconscious hell. I'd rather grow up<<

Uh, me, too, on account of my now being aware that as a child I was, for the most part, unconscious. Returning to that state of unconsciousness would indeed be hell, but the point is . . . you didn't know that it was a hell at the time, did you now? It was an Eden, if by that we mean living in a world without responsibility, where life does appear magical and eternally fresh, and where time, in the sense that we as adults experience it, seemed to us to be eternal.

gandalf greybeard said...

Well, the basic quanta of human evolution has always been the individual. So, the group direction, no matter how catastophic or strange, is all worth it if just a few individuals gain some ground. These few form a beach-head upon which later the entire race can follow.

What is the hallowed ground that is gained? I theorize it has to do with a greatly enlarged intuition and "spirit sense." More I cannot say, for it is not extant yet. Aurobindo probably had the clearest picture of the symptoms of this change.

The wrack and coil of our temporal age paradoxically is the energetic springboard by which a few individuals break into new territory.

"Petey" is the clearest sign of such gained turf that I have identified in the raccoon population, but I study the whole pack with interest.

The racoon is a precursor of what will be the norm down the road, at which time there will be uber-racoons of a still more luminous quality breaking new ground.

dloye said...

Lot's of interesting threads in the comments; never mind the post a fecund bit of "thinking aloud." No matter how our spirituality sings as a violin string with the touch of a rosined bow, the dancing, searching for a meaning to history, or history's end tantalizes us, and we wonder aloud. Is the "horizontal" materialism pulling outward, flattening the vertical axis? Is there a vortex on the forming in the eddies and flows near the far edges where CNN hosts presidential candidates debates? I've only the sense that our particular singularity is not much different than the singularity that sent much of Europe off marching to the defense of Jerusalem 1000 years ago. That was similar, and opposite, a heightened rarified vertical pull. So we give thanks in our own "post-historical" point in history accepting the novices graces, resisting a lot of the bs, and hopefully growing as we approach our own dark night of the soul.

As for me, so glad to find coons who do affirm that truth and wisdom exist. I'm still hoping to find the Christian chiropractic. Thanks Bob, and commentors all.

Coonified said...


"It was an Eden, if by that we mean living in a world without responsibility, where life does appear magical and eternally fresh, and where time, in the sense that we as adults experience it, seemed to us to be eternal."

I understand. But, when I find myself thinking back, wishing, dreaming about what was, I'm instantly shocked, and shruck back to the self that's not, and at the same time compelled and pushed by an impulse to become what should be, and perhaps is.

If absence of responsibility equals eden, then the proper attitude and daily action towards ones life should be the fervant desire to take on responsibilities, because responsibilities internalized disappear, and are no longer there.

You all know this.

Robin Starfish said...

at in la - Thanks for the recommendation of Into Great Silence, which is now in my queue. It sounds wonderful.

maineman said...

Trouble with the whole timeless thing. No time, no space, absolute zero. And when I see people trying to do the distorted Zen "time doesn't really exist" dance, they seem to gravitate toward "so I don't really have to do anything." That can't be right, can it?

I admire your openness to Bolton's thesis, Bob, and I got very intrigued by the title and apparent mission of the book. Also, I don't really know what he's up to yet. But the ideas of the Coonifesto resonate more with me and with how I've seen change unfold in myself and others. I don't doubt that we're in a crucible right now and that there were ways in which the prehistory evolution of consciousness might have been easier, but you couldn't get me to go back there under any circumstances.

I feel so blessed to be so conscious and challenged by every day and by its potential. Even as the peril seems to mount, I find myself oddly more at home with it, relaxed about it. Maybe, probably, the "flattening" is balanced by the opposite -- what's the opposite of flattening? Expansion? Yeah, that's the ticket. I'm expanding every day and have been for some time. And I can't be the only one.

julie said...

Maineman, I think you'd benefit greatly from reading the last three posts over at Walt's, which have been running on something of a parallel track. Start with Wednesday's, and don't forget the comments.

njcommuter said...

It seems to me that those who are best able to step outside history are those who know it best. Someone who has read and absorbed Winston Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples is far better able to do it than Joan Baez ... but not nearly as able as Winston Churchill himself.

Perhaps the fish must learn to see the water? And not just see it, but know it?