Copyright 2003 Victor Shane, All Rights Reserved

“You can’t fix something that’s broke on the basis of the same set of assumptions that made it broke in the first placeyou will just keep bouncing off the same walls and end up right back where you started.”


Peace! Peace! But there is no peace!

Jeremiah 6:14

What a fond hope it was that welled up in us when the Berlin Wall came down, communism began to collapse and Vaclav Havel stood on the balcony in Prague’s Wenceslas Square to face cheering crowds. We all thought those happy events would herald a new age of peace and democracy. How wrong we were! Even before the echoes of the cheering crowds could die down, seven thousand repressed demons came out of their closets to demand a ransom in wholesale new bloodletting. And as the Bosnian demon was massacring innocent women and children, we all stood in silence, dumbfounded, stunned and paralyzed by the deficit of rational explanation.

Let us pause, take inventory of our sad record, and consider something written by the distinguished journalist Michael Ignatieff in his book Blood and Belonging. Ignatieff went rummaging through the burned down rubble of the former Yugoslavia trying to find some sort of rational explanation for all the destruction and killings going on over there. Here are his words with regards to the city of Vukovar, for example, reduced to a heap of ruins by Serb militia:

Some quite uncontrolled adolescent lust was at work here. The tank and artillery commanders could not have seen what they were hitting. It was all abstract and as satisfying as playing machines in a video arcade.

                                      Michael Ignatieff, Blood and Belonging,

                                      Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1993, pp. 44-45

Ignatieff tried and tried to find some sort of rational explanation for all the mayhem and disorder. After looking at the enigma from every possible angle, after exploring all of the issues of “religion,” “past history,” “bad blood,” “an eye for an eye,” “nationalist delusion,” after rummaging through all the debris, ruin and desolation, he writes the following:

These are puzzles which no theory of nationalism, no theory of narcissism of minor difference, can resolve. After you have been to the wastelands of the new world order, particularly to those fields of graves marked with numberless wooden crosses, you feel stunned into silence by a deficit of moral explanation.

                                                                   Ibid, p. 244

How often have we seen this same spirit of resignation? Great philosophers, poets, writers and thinkers agonize over the human condition, only to run into the same boundary conditions and resign themselves to despair. This element of despair can be found in the lamentations of all the great authors of mankind, from Homer to Shakespeare, from Omar Khayyam to Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Even the eminent William Faulkner, having agonized and agonized over the nature of man, broke his pencil, threw up his hands and gave up trying find answers to the human condition.

With all of their pretensions of mind and power the politicians of the world don’t know the answer either—they too are bouncing off the same boundary conditions. All the kings men and all the kings horses, all the Princes of Zoan and all the Crisis Controllers keep bouncing off the same walls and end up right back where they started. All day long they sit around the Machiavellian table of diplomacy and compromise, proposing this and that “solution.” Some even succeed in producing spasms of “peace.” But the spasm is all too soon replaced by the familiar regression into disorder. What shall we say then? Rav Shaul (St.Paul) said it 2000 years ago:

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this world? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

                              (1 Corinthians 1:20)

What exactly are the boundary conditions of political disorder? What are the fundamental assumptions that need to be changed before the world can enter the Age of Peace? Whatever they may be, we need to discover them soon. It is now very late and “business as usual” won’t do any more. Whatever is wrong with human nature and the world must be discovered and fixed, otherwise we will continue to bounce off the same boundary conditions with devastating results—more Bosnia, Chechnya and Rwanda, more terrorism, more destruction, more holocausts, more ethnic cleansing, more reduction, degradation and mass misery with no end in sight.

The world has grown small suddenly. The differentiations that were yesterday insulated from one another are now rubbing raw against some imperative that does not allow harmonious multiplicity. If the nature of this imperative is not understood, and compensated for, we can only guess at the field day that the devil is going to have among the dissimilar factions of the human race. The lateness of the hour and the unprecedented distress of mankind now render the former boundary conditions deadly. It is time to lay the axe to the root.

Book of Life does just that. If we swallow our anthropocentric pride—if we view ourselves and our societies as physical systemswe can begin to connect the dots and piece together the puzzle of human nature; i.e., understand that what happened in Bosnia, Chechnya and Rwanda was nothing more than physical systems moving towards HIGHER PROBABILITY STATES.  

Hint: Order, peace, security, prosperity = lower probability states

Hint: Disorder, war, insecurity, poverty = higher probability states


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