by Leonard E. Read
Note – Frequent readers of BANKNOTES are aware of my relationship with Leonard E. Read and my admiration for his works during his lifetime. In the following issues I will be sharing his book, VISION, one chapter per month. It was written in 1978. What a privilege it was for me to know this great man! — R. Nelson Nash
Weep not that the world changes – did it keep a stable, changeless state “twere cause indeed to weep. -William Cullen Bryant
Though a lawyer and long-time editor, William Cullen Bryant (1794 – 1878), was most famous as a poet of nature. The paper which he edited and partly owned – The New York Evening Post – was renowned for its literary correctness and was a leading free trade, antislavery journal.
Here we have a top-ranking freedom devotee who had an unusual grasp of nature – creation – and could put the truths he grasped into enlightening verse, as the above testifies.
Not only is the universe in constant change but so is each of us. Most of us, however, strive for “a stable, changeless state” an affront to natural law.
Changes in the universe are of a variety and velocity beyond our comprehension. Our galaxy is but one of a seemingly infinite number of galaxies in an expanding universe; it has some 30 billion stars, each of each of which is in constant enormous change. That cloud in the sky never had another like it in the world’s history, nor is it the same as it was a second ago. No two atoms or snowflakes or blades of grass have ever been the same. The entire universe is a moving, changing phenomenon.
There is a tiny planet in that universe, and one of the inhabitants of the tiny planet – man – is a moving, changing phenomenon, as is all else in nature. We humans, as do the clouds or suns of galaxies differ from moment to moment.
Difficult to imagine is the fact that a quintillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000) atoms exchange in each individual every second! From whence and to where in the universe no one knows or ever will. We should grasp the profound meaning of this is we are to prosper materially, intellectually, morally and spiritually. Several sages share Bryant’s understanding:
Look abroad thro’ Nature’s range, Nature’s mighty law is change. – Burns
All things are changed, and with them, we, too, Change. Now this way and now that turns fortune’s Wheel – Lotharius I
All things must change To something new, to something strange. – Longfellow
There’s nothing constant in the universe, All ebb and flow, and every shape that’s born Bears in its womb the seeds of change. – Ovid
There is nothing permanent except change. – Heraclituus
In the course of time, we grow to love things we once hated and hate things we loved. – Stevenson.
Over the years I have known numerous individuals who once loved communism and changed to the point o hating that ignoble creed. Later? Some of them loved liberty! Also, over the past 60 years, I have observed countless citizens – from all walks of life – who once claimed to love liberty whose love changed to hate. Now? They love the planned economy and the welfare state. In what respect does this welfarism differ “from each according to his ability, to each according to his heed – communism? Not one whit!
As related to slavery and freedom, Robert Louis Stevenson’s statement is valid; love and hate are appropriate. And in ever so many relationships his sentence could be rephrased to read: In the course of time, we grow to like the things we once disliked and to dislike things formerly liked. Reflect on the things liked and now disliked. Or, on the persons who have switched allegiance. “Nature’s mighty law is change,” indeed!
In their blindness to reality, many present-day Americans strive for a “Stable, changeless state” – an affront to nature’s law. And this accounts in no small measure for the U.S.A.’s plunge into socialism – “cause indeed to weep.”
So, let us try to explain that changes and exchanges are two inseparable parts of nature’s law at the human level. It is the change that gives rise to the need for exchange; and the former without the latter has to spell disaster.
Our countrymen by the millions, particularly our elected and appointed political representatives – Federal, state and local – unaware of our ever-changing nature, are determined to stabilize existing conditions, maintain a status quo!
What a coincidence! While on a flight to St. Louis, and just after writing the above paragraph, I overheard a spirited conversation across the aisle and caught this remark: “Ram it down their necks!” Who are some of these “rammers”? They are the stabilizers, those who would coercively cast us in their images. Briefly, they would freeze us at their own level. They are unwittingly enemies of human evolution.
Implicit in evolving is transformation to ever higher levels. The evolution of mankind does not stem from individuals stagnated at this or that level – from a stable, changeless state – but from a growth in awareness, perception, consciousness. Were it not for growth – changing—mankind would still be at the Cro-Magnon level. But the know-it-alls are blind to this fact in human nature.
Wrote Sir William Hamilton: “The highest reach of human science is the scientific recognition of human ignorance.”
Reach, indeed! No one can move away from ignorance and toward intelligence who is not forever reaching, striving for enlightenment. One does not grow old or ignorant. One becomes old and ignorant by not growing!
Recognition” What is it we must grasp? Not only how infinitesimal is our know-how and the enormity of our ignorance, but how vastly each of us differs from all others! And, this above all: The ever-changing self?
When any individual gains an awareness of nature’s law, he will never approve of “a stable, changeless state.” Such would be comparable to making human tombstones of ourselves – a deadened humanity.
What does the good life require? Free and unfettered exchanges, bearing in mind the tiny, bits of experience which must constantly flow if we are to prosper materially and intellectually. Is it not self-evident that I cannot live on my ever-changing “bits.” nor you on yours?
The issue is, shall we freeze of free? Having no faith in human tombstones, and believing in freedom of choices and free exchange of all creative actions, I choose freedom.
Let us fervently pray that a few others may so choose:
LET FREEDOM REIGN!