Friday, August 27, 2010

Celebrate Dialectics!

Today is the birthday of Hegel, who is perhaps most famous for his idea of the dialectic, and that idea, perhaps, was made most famous by Marx (think, think, creaky brain, way back to undergrad Sociology and Philosophy classes--do I have this right?). If you've lived any amount of time at all, you're probably familiar with this dialectic idea: the seeds of any movement's demise can be found in its success.

So, we're vigilant with our eating, we lose weight, but eventually we get tired of being vigilant, and so regain weight. We see this in political life: one politician or group or idea succeeds but imperfectly, and those imperfections ultimately breed backlash, which leads to the next successful but imperfect movement, which breeds the next backlash.

Ah, the conflict of opposites. To my knowledge, Hegel doesn't give us any solutions.

Today is also the birthday of Theodore Dreiser. I remember reading him during the summer between high school and college, that high school where I was convinced that I hadn't gotten a good high school education, and I undertook to rectify that by reading classics. I remember hearing about how Dreiser's books were so shocking, and as with Gone With the Wind, I kept waiting for the shocking parts.

I look back to that girl that I was in 1983, reading An American Tragedy by the YMCA pool, working on my tan, working on my brain, hoping to be ready for college by the end of summer. I was more ready than I knew.

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