Epistle of the Elder of Omaha
“whom I love in Truth, “2 John 2:1
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