Thursday, October 6, 2016


Is it ever possible for a human being to change his or her view of the world. There are the famous biblical stories of conversion relating to St. Augustine and the Apostle Paul (aka Saul of Tarsus). But these are miracles. Life may be closer to picture painted by Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov, where the three brothers, Ivan, Dimitri and Alyosha, offer different paradigms of human existence. In fact one of the most dramatic sections of the novel is The Grand Inquisitor sequence, related by the skeptical Ivan to the spiritually inclined Alyosha. People rarely change even after they go through supposedly life changing experiences. If you are a Trump or Clinton supporter and have tried to effect a conversion, you know how difficult this can be. Mental health professionals are always attempting to isolate varying stages of human life in which personality or character are shaped. Freudians talk about the oedipal triangle; other psychoanalysts gravitate towards the pre-oedipal child and there has always been the larger discussion of nature versus nurture. The fact is that much of what makes human beings tick is stamped on them by a host of congenital biologic and genetic footprints. You may not be born an Upper West Side Jewish Liberal, a Ohio Republican or a New Mexico born libertarian, but you came into the world with certain propensities which your identical twin might not even possess. Those who have survived catastrophic situations can testify that people with similar upbringing can have radically different responses to trauma. While one survivor may be crushed by an experience, another emerges with a countervailingly optimistic attitude, despite the travails he or she has suffered. Ecco, et bien voila! This is the world--whole societies of individuals locked inside themselves and butting heads.

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