July 06, 2010

The ruts of tradition and conformity

There are lots of reasons to like Thoreau's Walden (and some to drive the reader up the wall). Some things I've gotten from it are very practical insights that I have found to hold up well in real situations.

Here's an example: I suspect that one reason why people who want to improve conditions may fall short is the human tendency to fall into ruts or predictable patterns. Every situation, every moment, is different and may require a different response. Unfortunately, our minds, like trains, tend to run along the same tracks.

As Thoreau noted in Walden,

It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves….The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity!

Rituals are great; ritualism isn't. It seems to me that the compulsion to repeat is more a symptom than a strategy.

WHAT WOULD ALINSKY SAY? Here are some guesses by someone who knew him.

JOBS FIRST, then deficits, argues John Irons of the Economic Policy Institute here.

KING CARBON. Would the founders of the USA declare independence from it?

YOUR INNER FISH. Get in touch with it here.


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