Swinging for the Fences: Hunting for Very Big Game

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    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.

    Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia’s 6th District.  He is the author of various books including The Parable of the Tribes:  The Problem of Power in Social Evolution.