Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cog. James Cog.

On the back of Schaefer's book Escape from Reason there's a summary.  It talks about the modern view of man as a cog in a machine, and how when nature swallows up grace, all a man can rationally do is to despair.
I had heard about this idea of a "cog in a machine" in books, but it wasn't until last weekend that I actually heard it come from a man.  The man was the author of the opera "Rapaccini's Daughter."  From what I gathered on the NPR program I was listening to, the man being interviewed used elements from Hawthorne's short story as well as a play that had already been written about this story.  The general plot follows the tragic love story of a girl and a guy.  The girl's old man has fed her poisonous plants from Day #1 which (good news) makes her immune to their poison, but (bad news) makes her poisonous to everyone else.  (Something tells me that some people should limit their research to white rats).  Anyway, the host of the radio show had a series of questions and answers with the operatic author.  (Hawthorne was unavailable for comment).  He asked whether the author thought anyone in the story was guilty.  The author hemmed and hawed, then said that he couldn't assign culpability.  After all, we're all cogs in a machine.  Really, if anyone was to blame, it was the young man because he doubted the father's ability to unite himself and his love.  Others might look at the father as a villian for what he did, but the simple fact is that someone is going against the laws of a certain time if there's going to be progress.  If that person succeeds, he's lauded as a hero.  If he fails, he's vilifed.  Really, he was pushing the world forward.
    This was the clearest example of dialectical thinking I've ever heard.  And he believes that an individual is not really responsible for his actions, but is simply a replaceable cog in the machine that churns regardless of individual decisions.  But can't even the smallest cog clog even the largest machine?  Isn't history the story of individuals?

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