Vincent van Gogh's painting of The Starry-Night, below displayed, engages the power of the universe and brings to mind the story of Joseph in the Old Testament, which some say may have had an influence on the composition of the work.
'Look, I have had another dream' he said, 'I thought I saw the sun, the moon and eleven stars, bowing to me.' Genesis 37:10
Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night 1889.
Oil on Canvas, 72 x 92 cm (29 x 36 1/4 in).
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Image courtesy of WebMuseum, Paris. Nicolas Pioch.
All of these men and women were (and remain) the instruments of creative evolution; they are the great heros of human civilizations without whom genuine progress would not be possible. Their story -- advancing freedom, liberty, and justice for all -- was first dramatically opened to the human spirit, in literature, by one who may be the greatest literary hero of them all: Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616).
Cervantes offered this enchanted and delightful insight into the soul of the real worlds:
(I)s there any greater joy than seeing before our very eyes, you might say, a great lake of boiling pitch, and in it, swimming and writhing about, there are many snakes, serpents, lizards, and many other kinds of fierce and fearsome creatures, and from the middle of the lake there comes an extremely sad voice, saying, 'Thou, O knight, whosoever thou mayest be, who looketh upon this fearful lake, if thou wishest to grasp the treasure hidden beneath these ebon waters, display the valor of they mighty heart and throw thyself into the midst of its black and burning liquid, for if thou wilt not, thou canst not be worthy of gazing upon the wondrous marvels contained and enclosed within the seven castles of the seven enchantresses which lieth beneath this blackness.' And no sooner has the knight heard the fearsome voice than without hesitating or stopping to consider the dangers he faces, and without even stripping off the weight of his heavy armor, he commends himself to God and his lady and throws himself into the middle of the boiling lake, and when he cannot see or imagine where he will land, he finds himself among flowering meadows even more beautiful than the Elysian Fields. Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, part I, 428-429 (E. Grossman, trans. 2003) (Madrid 1605).
In browsing the pages of this digital library one may become "the radical individual." Simply open your mind to the possibilities of self-guided cultural evolution toward a better fulture confronting the truly spectacular challenge that is now looming between democracy and plutocracy.
Here lies the mighty Gentleman
who rose to such heights of valor
that death itself did not triumph
over his life with his death.
He did not esteem the world,
he was the frightening threat
to the world, in this respect,
for it was his great good fortune
to live a madman, and die sane.
-- Epitaph for the grave of Don Quixote in Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote 939 (E. Grossman, trans 2003).
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.
--Letter from Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, Paris, November 13, 1787, in Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson Abroad, ed. Douglas L. Wilson and Lucia Stanton 206 (1999)
Loss of harmony at an evolutionary stage leads to the loss of all those evolutionary qualities. It leads to the breakdown and eventual disintegration of the evolutionary system. The tragic event of September 11  is horrible evidence of the total breakdown of harmony in the global system of humanity.
--Bela H. Banathy, HARMONY, International Society for the Systems Science (2001).
Individuality is the capacity for union. The measure of individuality is the depth and breath of true relation. I am an individual not as far as I am apart from, but as far as I am a part of other men. Evil is non-relation. The source of our strength is the central supply. You may as well break a branch off the tree and expect it to live. Non-relation is death.
--Mary Parker Follett, The New State 62-62 (1918) (The Pennsylvania State University Press ed. 1998)
Ultimately, the idea of individuality stands in the same chain of concepts that includes unity and entirety, totality, universality, and the differentiation between human spirit in general and the individual spirit has not always had anything like the power over the mind that it has in today’s world...
--Thomas Mann, Joseph and his Brothers 94-95 (J.E. Woods trans. 2005).We live in an age of contempt for democracy and democratic institutions. "The people" and their elected representatives are not to be trusted. They are too stupid or too irrational to govern. They have passions but no reason.
--Larry D. Kramer, "The Supreme Court in Politics," in Jack N. Rakove, editor, The Unfinished Election of 2000 105, 151-152 (2001).
Market theology and unelected leadership have been displacing politics and elections. Either democracy must be renewed, with politics brought back to life, or wealth is likely to cement a new and less democratic regime--plutocracy by some other name.
--Kevin Philips, Wealth and Democracy 422 (2002)
The greatest challenge is not just in the institutions themselves but in mind-sets. Caring about the environment, making sure the poor have a say in decisions that affect them, promoting democracy and fair trade are necessary if the potential benefits of globalization are to be achieved.
--Joseph E. Stiglitz, Globalization and its Discontents 216 (2002)
(D)espite the much vaunted Corporate Responsibility Act and the highly publicized round up of a few of the most heinous offenders, the awful truth is that the corporate tricksters have pillaged the U.S. economy and gotten away with it. They're still living in their gargantuan houses, still feasting on their wildly inflated salaries, and engorging themselves on staggering sums of stock options, while the rest of America tries to figure out how to rebuild for retirement. or send a kid to college on a worthless stock portfolio.
--Arianna Huffington, Introduction to Pigs at the Trough: How Corporate Greed and Poilitical Corruption are Undermining America (2003)
The continual shifting of the sands in our desert--separation from places, persons, beliefs--produce the psychic state of nature where reserve and timidity are the prevailing dispositions. We are social solitaries.
--Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind 117-118 (1987)
(T)he backbone of traditional societies -- "the empowering and illuminating of our consciousness" -- has been shattered by modern appetites: gobbling up as much information as possible without resting to look for deeper connections.
--Remarks of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Iranian-born author and Islamic scholar, in a lecture in May 2003 at Harvard Divinity School, quoted in Seyyed Hussin Nasr, "In the Beginning of Creation Was Consciousness." Harvard Divinity Bulletin (Fall/Winter 2003).
The old adage that America is a free country has, at last, come true, for Americans have come to accept the relevance of individual freedom, not only in their economic and political life, but in their moral life as well.
--Alan Wolfe, Moral Freedom: The Search for Virtue in a World of Choice 195 (2001)
I cannot support outlandish tax cuts that plunge our county into potentially disastrous debt while our troops are fighting and dying in a war that the White House chose to begin....
I cannot support the politics of zeal and "might makes right" that created the new American arrogance and unilateralism which passes for foreign policy in this administration.
I cannot support this foolish manifestation of the dangerous and destabilizing doctrine of preemption that changes the image of America into that of a reckless bully.
Mr. President, the emperor has no clothes. And our former allies around the world were the first to loudly observe it.
--Excerpt from a speech from the floor of the US Senate by Senator Robert C. Byrd, October 23, 2003, in Loosing America: Confronting A Reckless And Arrogant Presidency 259 (2004)
The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.
--Excerpt from The Nobel lecture given by Harold Pinter when he received the 2005 Nobel prize.
(B)ecause the decisive role played by shocks and crises has been so effectively purged from the official record of the rise of the free market, the extreme tactics on display in Iraq and New Orleans are often mistaken for the unique incompetence or cronyism of the Bush White House. In fact, Bush's exploits represent the monstrously violent and creative culmination of a fifty-year campaign for total corporate liberation.
--Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism 19 (2007).
This land is your land, this land is my land,
From California to the New York Island,
From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters,
This land was made for you and me.
--Song written by Woody Guthrie, quoted in Studs Turkel, Introduction to Ed Cray, Ramblin' Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie xvii (2004)
William Shakespeare (1563-1616)
Image of the cover sheet for the Folio Volume of the Works of the Poet, published by his friends Ben Jonson, John Hemmings, and Henry Condell, in 1623. From a photocopy in Michael Wood, Shakespeare 342 (Basic Books ed. 2003)
The weight of this sad time we must obey:
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.
William Shakespeare, King Lear (Rev. Folio text, 1609-10) (final speech by Edgar, the young son of old Glouchester reflecting on the experience, "of all those who have suffered at any time at the hands of tyranny and cruelty. This is why the play -- deemed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries unperformable unless adulterated -- has spoken perhaps most powerfully to the generations who have lived through the horrors of the twentieth century." quoted in M.Wood, infra at 314
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Portrait of Vigdor in blue 2001.