“Let us reason together,” the naturalist said to the historian, “for there is no need for decorations at this table.”
The common idea amidst the crowd is that there is such a thing as progress and this, by fact of nature, implies evolution. They presume to equate a process of outward refinement to one of inward development. Jumbling many things together by force of hubris, men believe that accumulation of facts is of the same character as growth of knowledge and personal ability. Humanity, they say, is ascending upon a ladder where science and technology will guide them to understand the essence of anything and everything. We apparently fail or forget to see that such things are at their essence separated from us and that whatever inner appreciation we have for their discoveries, it does not in any way change us at the fundamental basis of our being. Contraptions and scientific ideas which are extrapolated through the lens of laboratories and convoluted calculations have nothing to do with us at the heart of what we are.
“I tell you, man,” the naturalist stated to the historian, “we are no different than those one thousand years before, nor those yet to come one thousand years from now!”
Men are the same today as they were in the very beginning, and so shall they be in the end. The preconditions of a man’s nature does not change by laws which govern the masses through the passage of time. His body may become more pale, frail and prone to illness as technology continues to increase his physical clutches of comforts and conveniences year upon year, but he will still be rendered at the mercy of the same emotional encounters as have existed time immemorial. The advancement of science and the refinement of technology will not strip him of the moral and existential elements of his life here on earth. They will not rid him of the necessity to begin with the crude and to distill from them, by some alchemical feat, the fine. A man’s genuine evolution has always remained a personal, isolated and introspective journey to which each one of us must undertake alone.
“Man’s clothes and sense of fashion may change,” the historian said to the naturalist, “but one man and all men will always have to learn the same lessons.”
The modern world has polished itself quite impressively within the past one hundred years. The process of technology moves from one thing to the next, passing the baton like a relay race from one generation to each succeeding one. No single generation can ever take credit for the entire process, but only owe and honour those which preceded. Nonetheless, with all of the improvements and refinements on one side of the fence, the other appears to be as poor and decrepit as ever before. Indeed, the minority on earth pleasure themselves with ideas of personal grandeur while simply nodding their head in acknowledgement at the demise of millions of others who lack the means to sustain their weight. It is the nature of man to be limited in his scope of sight, narrowing his vision towards what he wants to look at and ignore, out of laziness more than anything else, that which contradicts it.
“Self-image is the culprit,” claimed the historian to the naturalist, “for it serves to disguise man from himself — to what he is, has been, and always will be.”
It is not important what men are. What is of significance is what a single man makes of himself. Forever lost in flights of frenzy, a distracted boy will not be able to sit down and focus on his studies. We are forever at the beck and call of complicated fantasy and daydreaming until we realize that, based on scale and relativity, a single individual has only the power to change himself. And this — to change — is rare and requires the utmost desire to be cultivated within ourselves. For as Spinoza made so clear in his simple calculations of logic and reason, only emotion is strong enough to overpower and defeat, on a daily basis, the emotional atmosphere of a creature addicted to comforts, pleasures and the resulting cycles of dramatic fancy. One must focus on a task which is at reach, at hand, available immediately and practically; not lying upon a bed of lilies or floating up-top on fluffy clouds.