Epistle of the Elder of Omaha
 “To the elect lady and her children
  “whom I love in Truth, “2 John 2:1
       I have been thinking about the question of change.  It is hard not too as “one can say with some certainty that the world never looked so motley as now.” I should own up to fact that I am quote Friedrich H̀ölderlin, the German poet whom I have previously mentioned, writing to his friend, Johann Ebel, at the beginning of 1797.   “It is an immense multifariousness of contradictions and contrasts.  Old and new.  Civilized and barbarian.  Malice and passion.  Selfishness in sheep’s clothing, selfishness in wolf ‘s clothing.  Superstition and unbelief, Servitude and despotism, Unreasonable wisdom, unwise reason.  Feeling without thinking, thinking without feeling.  History, experience, tradition, without philosophy–philosophy without experience.  Energy without principles, principles without energy.  Discipline without humanity, humanity without discipline.  Feigned obligingness, shameless impertinence.  Precocious young boys--silly old men.  The litany could be continued from sunrise to midnight without having named more than a thousandth part of the chaos that is humanity.”  It does some how seem to fit our present.  Hölderlin then goes on to declare to his friend: “But that is how it should be!”
       Hölderlin’s friend experiences the prospect of change as catastrophic.  We are talking among other thing the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte! Hölderlin counsels that he should experience this as a process which he should embrace.  The crux of their difference is that Ebel is holding on to the view that universe is a static event, while Hölderlin, with his friends in the early romantic circle to which he belongs, has broken though to the view that the universe is itself a process.  In his poetry this will be expressed in the ubiquitous metaphor of a river, and in his letters and essays, he has by this time given this point of view a clear and repeated expression.  His work is among  the earliest expression of the romantic tradition that will blossom in the early decades of new century, particularly in Germany and in England.  
       This transformation of thinking about the universe does not only effect theology, philosophy, and literature, it also effects the natural sciences, especially geology and biology.  The certainty of a static universe blocked the way to an evolutionary science.  Michael Rectenwald’s paper From Romantic Catastrophism to Victorian Gradualism: A Reading of Epistemes, which I am currently studying and hope to review in this blog, is focused on the role these alternative understands played a role in birth pains of evolutionary sciences.  I am betting that a dialogue with this paper can clarify how a pivot in thought takes place, which now seems to have taken place again in our current cultural life.  Certainly, we seem again to experience change as catastrophic and is it because we have again concluded that our universe is a static?
       Many of us on both end of the political spectrum fear and/or wish for catastrophic change.  Few can see their way to hope in the measured steps of a process, of some particular narrative, since that hope seems to have been ill placed.  But I am sure that a catastrophic event will make nothing new.  How and with what kind of poetic, will we find the way to walk out of the conflict in which we have chosen to live, demands our attentions.

 Faithfully,  Michael, The Elder of Omaha

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