“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!” ~ Shakespeare
On the eve of a spring morning, a layer of snow compressed beneath the wind swept snowdrift of several feet. The compression caused some heat and a layered boundary of water and ice formed. The ice layer shifted its weight just a little and the whole system of frozen moisture started a journey down the southern face of the mountain. It slid, it rolled, it cascaded down with a roar that seconds later could be heard distance away. As it journeyed downward, it uprooted trees, the hunter firs, the maples, hackberry, hawthorn, the aspen and the crabapple all rolled into a gigantic mass of white rushing down to devour more of the mountain side. The blur of this rush with its sound and fury masked all other thoughts and visuals for that moment. This was it. This was the defining moment for the valley below.
And it was, for that moment in time.
The avalanche ended as they all do at the base of the mountain. There, the huge storm of snow, ice, rocks, trees, some wild animals and human built dwellings lay down its battle dress, swords and shields. The sound echoed for moments later and then it too died. The cacophony of the human spirit awakened, investigated the debacle and there was a wire-to-wire coverage on the news media, which so loves disasters. Fear mongering started soon after that other places were also susceptible to the same. Teams of “experts” were sent with various equipments to measure the snow-depths and the stability of the terrain. Many predictors predicted the potential of a larger avalanche. Traffic below on highways diminished for fear of a flash avalanche. Snow guns boomed day and night to dislodge any such shifting ice sheets. And as always this died down too. And soon as all things are forgotten, life resumed once again.
So what of this?
Ideas are like that. They get harnessed, from a whim, experience, information, knowledge or ideology, and then compressed and with the will and desire of one idea-maker, are pushed perforce-demanding acceptances. They catch fire in another’s mind, one becomes two and the conflagration spreads. The drumbeat increases, the cacophony becomes deafening and ultimately the whole structure collapses in a charred heap. The more the idea is propounded with the fierceness of the underlying motive and harsh advocacy, the more the idea becomes a cause celebre. The validity of the idea is questioned little and those that question are gathered up in the turmoil and anger of the sentiment, like the trees and the innocent animals.
Not until the winter thaws into spring and time matures, the ice and snow melts, can you see the ruin. The shattered tree trunks, the broken branches, the uprooted early saplings, the animal carcasses and the remnants of human habitat all deposited in the valley below become a testimony to the rage of the cause for that time.
Over time, the abandoned area becomes covered with nature’s foliage and time is forgotten in this buried mass.
Ideas that arise out of a sheer forceful secretion of raw will or hubris without evidence or truth accompanied by vilification of an expressed contrary opinion usually take a temporary force of their own, but they always die with the same intensity from whence they are born. There is insanity in most intensity.
Kenneth Galbraith in his book Anatomy of Power observed that; "power accrues not to the individual who knows; it goes to the one, who often out of obtuseness, believes that he knows and who can persuade others to that belief."
The louder the vitriol and higher the intensity and temperature of a concept is nothing more then an avalanche, sooner formed, soon rested, soon forgotten and soon buried in time.
The slow plod of a carefully dissected concept persists and goes on to change the world.
As the brilliant theoretical physicist, Richard Feynman said, “Nature cannot be fooled.” Neither can truth.