Swinging for the Fences: Hunting for Very Big Game

We’ve been on this “Swinging for the Fences” trail for a while now, and it feels to me like time for me to tell you more about where we’re heading. Let me start with an image I recall from some movie, or maybe more than one movie:

Our heroes are explorers in some strange land that time forgot, reputed to be the home of creatures of monstrous proportions. They are wandering around, looking for footprints to guide them to their hoped-for quarry, but can find none. The ground seems smooth, except for the rising like berms around them.

Then the camera backs away upward to show our dauntless explorers from above, and then we see the truth that escapes the people on the ground: that depression they’re standing in is a footprint.

So it is with us, seeing the world around us from our usual vantage point.

What I’m going to do here, in “Swinging for the Fences,” is raising the camera up to show the tracks of some very big game that’s not readily visible when we usually look at human affairs from the ground on which we usually stand.

Here is the big game we’re going to track:

1) In the human realm, there operate deep and forces that warrant being called “spirits”—not visible to our usual eye, but powerful in their effects.

2) An important part of the human drama can meaningfully and appropriately be described as “the battle between good and evil.”

Please note that I am speaking here as a social thinker, a theorist, in the tradition of rational and empirical thought. I am claiming these notions – “spirit,” and “the battle between good and evil”—not within the framework of any theology or received tradition (though not necessarily in conflict with them either). These are, rather, what I see as the best way of describing and explaining important realities I’ve discerned in recent years in my life-long effort to understand, using reason and evidence, the story of our species.

I intend to show here that these realities are discernible– but only in the same sense that the huge footprint in the movie is discernible. It can be seen if we can achieve the necessary perspective.

Achieving that perspective is what I’ve been working toward in this “Swinging for the Fences” series. To see the footprint of this vast and deep kind of creature I’m calling “spirit,” and to see how different kinds of forces –constructive and destructive—are contending in human affairs, it will be helpful to open up the conceptual space that these various “magnets” –and the “fields” they generate– bring into relief.

So now I will make the rounds of those four “magnets” one more time, to open up those spaces a bit further. And then I will turn to deal more directly with the big game we’re hunting here.

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10 Responses to “Swinging for the Fences: Hunting for Very Big Game”

  1. David R Says:

    It might b interesting as a reader to be given some notion of what you perceive as the footbrint we are ‘standing’ in.

    Numerous cultures in our present world increasingly interconnected yet remaining diverse in their core concepts of what life for them is all about.

    The main moving force is currently, mayve as always, economic and that promoted and or restricted as perceived in the interest of those controlling in a measure the finance of major economies and governments.

    One might cut to the essence of things quicker by investigating the world of finance in its several aspects, where seems to lie much of the control and attempting to perceive more clearly the world view of the major players.

    There may be indeed ‘spirits’ in play in the deeper motivations and drives resident or active in the psyches of major players but their long term views over time should maybe be discernable for the astute observer and ‘student’ .

    Where their long term goals and ‘values’ differ from that/those of the host cultures, conflict and unrest is inevitable.

    The investigation may lead one betond the economic nature of man, beyond the power of greed as motivating drive and raise the question: Is the ‘world’ and and its systems actually moving in a particulay discernable direction.

  2. Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:

    The footprint, David R, is the vast and deep sets of forces –or spirits– that interact in our world, over long spans of time and in multiple dimensions, in what I’m calling “the battle between good and evil.”

    I know that you believe that forces of good and evil are real, and that you understand them in a different way –more theological, involving God and Satan, I believe– than I do.

    What I’m saying is that if one looks at the big picture, and how things fit together, in order to see things whole, one can discern forces of this sort operating in the human system, and can perceive their reality and operation, even though their operation is not visible on a piece-by-piece basis on which most of us see the world.

    (BTW, the “world of finance” can certainly be an arena through which such forces move, but it is not at the level at which I believe the heart of the drama is being enacted in human affairs. That’s at the level of what I’m calling the spirit.)

    I will be building this picture, bit by bit as I lay all this out.

    Meanwhile, I am also discussing –in a less systematic, more ad hoc way– these issues on my campaign Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/AndySchmookler

  3. Richard H. RAndall, Major, USA, (ret.) Says:

    Good start guys. My thinking is that humankind is indeed political and economic at many levels (as well as spiritual, et. al. ) Fascism and economic elitism seem to me to be major elements in this mix now, as is a growing push for democracy and economic participation that is not so dominated by the authoritarian systems. This is seen positively in China and the NOrth African-middle eastern struggles, and for example the stand of progressives versus reactionaries in our own government, with the latter trying to at the state and federal level, attempting to destroy the national governments power, and reduce the citizens to complete pawns (serfs?).
    A recent CBBP article was very clear on this. The ALEC agenda included deep tax cuts for corportations and investors, shifted most taxes to the middle class and poor, and cut taxes on the wealthy, and cut investments in education, and public services by establishing limits on funds for these public investments.

  4. Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:

    I realize that when I use a word like “spirit” it will be understood in various ways, and many of them –at least until I’ve developed the idea more fully, and maybe even then– will not be the way I am intending. When you say, Richard, that “My thinking is that humankind is indeed political and economic at many levels (as well as spiritual, et. al. ),” I gather that you’re thinking that I’m referring to the spiritual dimension of people’s experience. And in part it is probably related to that. But what I’m referring to are forces and patterns that operate on such a vast scale, through people but not at the level of us as individuals, that they warrant being called “spirit.” In my article here from many years ago, “The Concept of Evil,” I put it this way:

    It is…central to evil that —unlike the destructiveness of a tsunami—it works through the realm of human choice. And it is its use of the wounding and twisting of the human spirit that gives evil its morally dark and cruel aspect.

    But it is also its operating on a scale far vaster than the individual human will, and its opportunism in spreading its patterns of brokenness, that give the impression of a vast spirit at work in the world, expanding its empire wherever there is an opening.

    So as I’m using it, the level of spirit lies deeper than the institutions of religion or politics. It is the force that imbues both of those with its basic character and thrust. I speak there about the destructive spirit of evil, but the very same can be said of the constructive spirit of good.

  5. Richard H. Randall Says:

    I believe you are correct in this. There is a term called meliorism which comes from the Latin, meaning, ‘to make better.’ SOme meliorists think that that spirit constantly works to make improvements in the universe and that a humans duty is to assist in such an effort.
    I respect your comments very much here Andy: it is clear there is a potent force of evil at work in our world, beyond ‘natural evil’ and it is wreaking havoc and damage at many differrent levels. The attack on community and well-being of democracy itself is a manifest expression of this evil force at work, at the level of political policy.

  6. Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:

    “: it is clear there is a potent force of evil at work in our world, beyond ‘natural evil’ ”

    Please explain what you mean here by “natural evil.”

  7. Richard H. Ranall Says:

    The term ‘natural evil’ was one which philosophers-mainly doing natural philosophy in the 1600’s onward meant the natural tendency for harm to be done by the unfolding of natural events, e.g., the Lisbon earthquake, inundations on the European mainland by a strong Atlantic. It did not mean delibertaly caused; it meant events, which were caused in the natural order of natural occurances, which caused damage due to the nature of man-not because he was deserving, (though some said so)but becasue he is subject to them due to his fragility in the face of nature. Perhaps we have stopped using this term, as we think of nature now more in other ways. There have been some philosophers, such as J.S. Mill, who railed on about the cruelty of the natural state, or as you are quite aware about ‘the fallen state of nature,’ though this is more a theological idea, than a moral one. Never believed it myself.

  8. Richard H. Ranall Says:

    Having said the above, it seems easy to relate beauty and goodness, in the natural state, for sure. Of course, that pleasant suset can be marred, and scarred by a lighting caused fire.
    If one thinks of Life as basically good, then our aesthetic senses come easily into play. Nature is just so manifest, especially if one spends much time in it, so to speak, it easy to develop a sense of appreciation for it-though that is not quite the word I am searching for. It is a sense, of awe, respect, and heartfelt love and wonder. This, though when I am in the mountains, I know, if I can’t make a shelter, light a fire, and am prepared for the cold and damp, I could die.
    This past summer, I walked, right by a western diamondback rattlesnake, whom I have named ‘Jake.’ I did not see him until I made a return trip to my cabin, a moment later. He was stretched out in the sun, and by the bulge mid-way down his nearly six foot lenth, he’d eaten well in the previous evening. On the one hand, he was fanged death within a foot of my booted leg: on the other hand he was a beautiful evolutionary success, and the reason I’d not seen mice, rats or even ground squirrels near my cabin. I would not hurt him if at all possible, though I know, that I will always have to take precaustions to the maxium to avoid conflict. Oh, after looking at me as I stood a few feet away, he moved gracefully to the western edge of the property, without ever coiling, or rattleing.
    Studies in India have shown that most snake bites occur because people step on the various and many poisonous snakes in that land. In AMerica, a significant number of poisonous snake bites occur, because people are harassing the snakes. (Water mocciasins are aggressive and copperheads are very terrritorial) and all such pit vipers are gnarly when they are shedding due to their inability to see, or so I understand. So they to are more dangerous when they are vulnerable.
    It is a characteristic of the human evil, that some seek to perpetuate feelings of persecution and insecurity, to downright meanness often associated with greed and fear for their ends. Some poisonous snakes do not envenomate even when provoked. It is a mark of today’s human evil that such a venomous state exists, and a reminder of the human predicament of what it might take to see that it does not coquer the human, democratic world.

  9. Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:

    Thanks for the explanation about “natural evil.” In my own conceptualization, I’ve thought it best NOT to consider as “evil” everything that is destructive, like earthquakes and tsunamis. I confine evil to things that work through the human sphere, and still more to things that work through human “brokenness.” In other words, if say an air traffic control person, or a pilot, makes a simple error that results in the deaths of dozens of people, that’s not an instance of “evil.” But when destruction occurs because of an incapacity to deal with reality honestly (like some of the climate change deniers), or because of insatiable greed (like taking from the poor to give to the rich, and like other climate change deniers in the oil business), or from broken psychological mechanisms (like projection onto vulnerable groups to be scapegoated)– then we’re dealing with evil.

    More than that, the evil as I see it is located ultimately in the force or pattern that both fosters and feeds upon this kind of human brokenness.

    Evil, then, is a force or pattern or spirit that works destructively and that operates through the brokenness of human beings.

    That’s my current best definition.

  10. Richard H. Randall Says:


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