. . . A pennant of some kind in a half-open window two stories up . . . Too far away to read. Will never know what it says.
All these different patterns of people's lives passing through each other without any contact at all.
. . . Smells . . . all different kinds of food odors . . . Cigars.
. . . Above the window with the pennant, a billboard for Marx Furs. Something angering . . . The model . . . High-fashion, high-class. 'I am so desirable, I am so unapproachable. But if you have the price (you cheap bastard), I am for sale.' That price . . . Was it all for sale if you had that price? . . . Do women really act like that here? . . . Some, he supposed . . . it must sell furs. And jewelry and cosmetics . . . Ahh, it was just an advertising cliché. Those guys were for sale.
. . . More candid-camera eyes, some cynical. If he wasn't up to something, why was he here? . . . It wore on you, that guilty-until-proven-innocent attitude. He didn't want to prove anything to anyone. He was done with that.
That was it. He didn't want to prove anything. Not to Rigel, not to Lila, not to her 'friends' . . . God, what a shock that was. If those were her friends he sure didn't want to meet her enemies.
He wondered what it was about himself that she couldn't see when he was getting angry. Just now at the café she'd gone on for fifteen minutes about what great people they were and she never saw what was coming. She missed the whole point of everything. She's after Quality, like everybody else, but she defines it entirely in biological terms. She doesn't see intellectual quality at all. It's outside her range. She doesn't even see social quality.
That whole thing with her on the river was like Mae West and Sherlock Holmes. What a mismatch. Sherlock lowers his standards by having anything to
do with Mae, but Mae is also lowering her standards by having anything to do with Sherlock. Sherlock is smart, all right, but that isn't what interests Mae. These biological 'friends' of Lila: that's what she goes for.
. . . They can have her. She'd be off the boat tonight. If this last meeting at the hotel went as smoothly as the others he'd be out of here tomorrow and heading south.
. . . More eyes . . . They weren't watching you so much as watching out for you. Survivors' eyes.
He had to step off the sidewalk to get around a steel mesh fence in front of a huge hole that went down now where there used to be something. Cement trucks, at the bottom of the hole were pouring concrete. On the other side of the hole the adjacent building looked all scarred and damaged. Maybe that was coming down next. Always something going up. Always something coming down. Change and change, on and on. He had never come here when there wasn't all this demolition and construction going on.
Suddenly he was back into posh fabrics and clothing stores. Saying what this city is like is like saying what Europe is like. It depends on what neighborhood you're in, what time of day, how depressed you are.
He buttoned the top of his jacket, put his free hand in his pocket, and walked more briskly. He should have worn a sweater under this jacket. The weather was turning cold again.
The first time he was alone here, when was it? In the Army maybe? No, it couldn't have been. Some time around the Second World War. He couldn't remember. All he could remember was the route. It was from Bowling Green all the way up Broadway to somewhere past Columbus Circle.
He remembered it was a cold day like this one so that when he slowed down he got chilly. So instead of getting tired and slowing down more and more he kept going faster and faster until in the end he was running through crowds, up blocks and across intersection after intersection with sweat soaking his clothes and running down his face. The next day in his hotel room his legs were so stiff he could hardly move.
It must have been on his way to India. Breaking out of this whole system. Running to get free. He couldn't run like that any more. He'd never make it. Now he had to go slow and use his mind more.
What was he running from? He didn't know then. It seemed like he'd been running all his life.
It used to fill his dreams, night after night. When he was little it was a giant octopus that he'd seen in a cartoon movie. The octopus would come up on the beach and wrap its tentacles around him and squeeze him to death. He would wake up in the dark and think he was dead. Later it was a huge shadowy faceless giant who was coming to kill him. He would wake up afraid and then slowly realize that the giant wasn't real. He supposed everyone had dreams like that although he doubted whether most people had them so often.
He had come to think of dreams as Dynamic perceptions of reality. They were suppressed and filtered out of consciousness by conventional patterns of static social and intellectual order but they revealed a primary truth: a value truth. The static patterns of the dreams were false but the underlying values that produced the patterns were true. In static reality there is no octopus coming to squeeze us to death, no giant that is going to devour us and digest us and turn us into a part of its own body so that it can grow stronger and stronger while we are dissolved and lost into nothingness.
But in Dynamic reality?
. . . These manhole covers always fascinated him. Many intersections seemed to have nearly a dozen of them, some new and rough, others worn smooth and shiny from so many tires rolling over them. How many tires did it take to wear a steel manhole cover smooth?
He'd seen drawings of how the manholes led down to staggeringly complex underground networks of systems
that made this whole island happen: electric power networks, telephone networks, water pipe networks, gas line networks, sewage networks, subway tunnels, TV cables, and who knows how many special-purpose networks he had never even heard of, like the nerves and arteries and muscle fibers of a giant organism.
The Giant of his dreams.
It was spooky how it all worked with an intelligence of its own that was way beyond the intelligence of any person. He would never know how to fix one of these systems of wire and tubes down below the ground that ran it all. Yet there was someone who did. And there was a system for finding that person if he was needed, and a system for finding that system that would find him. The cohesive force that held all these systems together: that was the Giant.
When he was young Phaedrus used to think about cows and pigs and chickens and how they never knew that the nice farmer who provided food and shelter was doing so only so that he could sell them to be killed and eaten. They would 'oink,' or 'cluck,' and he would come with food, so they probably thought he was some sort of servant.
He also used to wonder if there was a higher farmer that did the same thing to people, a different kind of organism that they saw every day and thought of as beneficial, providing food and shelter and protection from enemies, but an organism that secretly was raising these people for its own sustenance, feeding upon them and using their accumulated energy for its own independent purposes. Later he saw there was: this Giant. People look upon the social patterns of the Giant in the same way cows and horses look upon a farmer; different from themselves, incomprehensible, but benevolent and appealing. Yet the social pattern of the city devours their lives for its own purposes just as surely as farmers devour the flesh of farm animals. A higher organism is feeding upon a lower
one and accomplishing more by doing so than the lower organism can accomplish alone.
The metaphysics of substance makes it difficult to see the Giant. It makes it customary to think of a city like New York as a 'work of man,' but what man invented it? What group of men invented it? Who sat around and thought up how it should all go together?
If 'man' invented societies and cities, why are all societies and cities so repressive of 'man'? Why would 'man' want to invent internally contradictory standards and arbitrary social institutions for the purpose of giving himself a bad time? This 'man' who goes around inventing societies to repress himself seems real as long as you deal with him in the abstract, but he evaporates as you get more specific.
Sometimes people think there are some evil individual 'men' somewhere who are exploiting them, some secret cabal of capitalists, or '400,' or 'Wall Street bankers,' or WASPs or name-any-minority group that gets together periodically and has secret conferences on how to exploit them personally. These 'men' are supposed to be enemies of 'man.' It gets confusing, but nobody seems to notice the confusion.
A metaphysics of substance makes us think that all evolution stops with the highest evolved substance, the physical body of man. It makes us think that cities and societies and thought structures are all subordinate creations of this physical body of man. But it's as foolish to think of a city or a society as created by human bodies as it is to think of human bodies as a creation of the cells, or to think of cells as created by protein and DNA molecules, or to think of DNA as created by carbon and other inorganic atoms. If you follow that fallacy long enough you come out with the conclusion that individual electrons contain the intelligence needed to build New York City all by themselves. Absurd.
If it's possible to imagine two red blood cells sitting side by side asking, 'Will there ever be a higher form of evolution than us?' and looking around and seeing nothing, deciding there isn't, then you can imagine the ridiculousness of two people walking down a street of Manhattan asking if there will ever be any form of evolution higher than 'man,' meaning biological man.
Biological man doesn't invent cities or societies any more than pigs and chickens invent the farmer that feeds them. The force of evolutionary creation isn't contained by substance. Substance is just one kind of static pattern left behind by the creative force.
This city is another static pattern left behind by the creative force. It's composed of substance but substance didn't create it all by itself. Neither did a biological organism called 'man' create it all by himself. This city is a higher pattern than either a substance or a biological pattern called man. Just as biology exploits substance for its own purposes, so does this social pattern called a city exploit biology for its own purposes. Just as a farmer raises cows for the sole purpose of devouring them, this pattern grows living human bodies for the sole purpose of devouring them. That is what the Giant really does. It converts accumulated biological energy into forms that serve itself.
When societies and cultures and cities are seen not as inventions of 'man' but as higher organisms than biological man, the phenomena of war and genocide and all the other forms of human exploitation become more intelligible. 'Mankind' has never been interested in getting itself killed. But the superorganism, the Giant, who is a pattern of values superimposed on top of biological human bodies, doesn't mind losing a few bodies to protect his greater interests.
The Giant began to materialize out of Phaedrus' Dynamic dreams when he was in college. A professor of chemistry had mentioned at his fraternity that a large chemical firm was offering excellent jobs for graduates of the school and almost every member of the fraternity thought it was wonderful news. The Second World War had just ended and good jobs were all that anyone seemed to think of. The revolution of the sixties was still twenty years off. No one had thought of making the film, The Graduate, back then.
Phaedrus had always believed science is a search for truth. A real scientist is not supposed to sell out that goal to corporations who are searching for mere profit. Or, if he had to sell out in order to live that was nothing to be happy about. These fraternity brothers of his acted like they never heard of science as truth. Phffidrus had suddenly seen a tentacle of the Giant reaching out and he was the only one who could see it.
So here was this Giant, this nameless, faceless system reaching for him, ready to devour him and digest him. It would use his energy to grow stronger and stronger throughout his life while he grew older and weaker until, when he was no longer of much use, it would excrete him and find another younger person full of energy to take his place and do the same thing all over again.
That was why he had run that day through all this traffic - through all these systems and sub-systems of the island. He was on his way to India, done with this corporate pseudo-science, still pursuing truth, knowing that to find it he would have to get free of the Giant first.
Here up in the sky above him right now were the heads of the corporation that had prompted the chemistry professor to make that talk to that fraternity so many years ago. This was the brain center of that corporate network, surrounded by other networks: financial networks, information networks, electronic transmission networks. That's what all those tiny bodies were doing up there suspended so many hundreds of feet up in the sky. Participating in the Giant.
So Phaedrus had been right in running then. But now - funny thought - this was actually his home. All his income came from here. His only fixed address now was right here — his publisher's address on Madison Avenue. He was as much a part of the Giant as anyone else.
Once you understand something well enough, you don't need to run from it. In recent years each time he'd returned to New York he could feel his fear of this old monster lessening, and a kind of familiar affection for it growing.
From a Metaphysics of Quality's point of view this devouring of human bodies is a moral activity because it's more moral for a social pattern to devour a biological pattern than for a biological pattern to devour a social pattern. A social pattern is a higher form of evolution. This city, in its endless devouring of human bodies, was creating something better than any biological organism could by itself achieve.
Well, of course! My God! Look at it! The power of this place! Fantastic! What individual work of art can come anywhere near to equaling it? Sure: dirty, noisy, rude, dangerous, expensive. Always has been and probably always will be. Always been a hell-hole if what you're looking for is stability and serenity . . . But if you're looking for stability and serenity, go to a cemetery, don't come here! This is the most Dynamic place on earth!
Now Phaedrus felt it all around him - the speed, the height, the crowds and their tension. All the early strangeness was gone now. He was in it.
He remembered that its great symbol used to be the ticker tape, ticking out unpredictable fortunes rising and falling every second, a great symbol of luck. Luck. When E. B. White wrote, 'If you want to live in New York you should be willing to be lucky,' he meant not just 'lucky' but willing to be lucky - that is, Dynamic. If you cling to some set static pattern, when opportunity comes you won't take it. You have to hang loose, and when the time comes to be lucky, then be lucky: that's Dynamic.
When they call it freedom, that's not right. 'Freedom' doesn't mean anything. Freedom's just an escape from something negative. The real reason it's so hallowed is that when people talk about it they mean Dynamic Quality.
That's what neither the socialists nor the capitalists ever got figured out. From a static point of view socialism is more moral than capitalism. It's a higher form of evolution. It is an intellectually guided society, not just a society that is guided by mindless traditions. That's what gives socialism its drive. But what the socialists left out and what has all but killed their whole undertaking is an absence of a concept of indefinite Dynamic Quality. You go to any socialist city and it's always a dull place because there's little Dynamic Quality.
On the other hand the conservatives who keep trumpeting about the virtues of free enterprise are normally just supporting their own self-interest. They are just doing the usual cover-up for the rich in their age-old exploitation of the poor. Some of them seem to sense there is also something mysteriously virtuous in a free enterprise system and you can see them struggling to put it into words but they don't have the metaphysical vocabulary for it any more than the socialists do.
The Metaphysics of Quality provides the vocabulary. A free market is a Dynamic institution. What people buy and what people sell, in other words what people value, can never be contained by any intellectual formula. What makes the marketplace work is Dynamic Quality. The market is always changing and the direction of that change can never be predetermined.
The Metaphysics of Quality says the free market makes everybody richer by preventing static economic patterns from setting in and stagnating economic growth. That is the reason the major capitalist economies of the world have done so much better since the Second World War than the major socialist economies. It is not that Victorian social economic patterns are more moral than socialist intellectual economic patterns. Quite the opposite. They are less moral as static patterns go. What makes the free-enterprise system superior is that the socialists, reasoning intelligently and objectively, have inadvertently closed the door to Dynamic Quality in the buying and selling of things. They closed it because the metaphysical structure of their objectivity never told them Dynamic Quality exists.
People, like everything else, work better in parallel than they do in series, and that is what happens in this free-enterprise city. When things are organized socialistically in a bureaucratic series, any increase in complexity increases the probability of failure. But when they're organized in a free-enterprise parallel, an increase in complexity becomes an increase in diversity more capable of responding to Dynamic Quality, and thus an increase of the probability of success. It's this diversity and parallelism that make this city work.
And not just this city. Our greatest national economic success, agriculture, is organized almost entirely in parallel. All life has parallelism built into it. Cells work in parallel. Most body organs work in parallel: eyes, brains, lungs. Species operate in parallel, democracies operate in parallel; even science seems to operate best when it is organized through the parallelism of the scientific societies.
It's ironic that although the philosophy of science leaves no room for any undefined Dynamic activity, it's science's unique organization for the handling of the Dynamic that gives it its superiority. Science superseded old religious forms, not because what it says is more true in any absolute sense (whatever that is), but because what it says is more Dynamic.
If scientists had simply said Copernicus was right and Ptolemy was wrong without any willingness to further investigate the subject, then science would have simply become another minor religious creed. But scientific truth has always contained an overwhelming difference from theological truth: it is provisional. Science always contains an eraser, a mechanism whereby new Dynamic insight could wipe out old static patterns without destroying science itself. Thus science, unlike orthodox theology, has been capable of continuous, evolutionary growth. As Phaedrus had written on one of his slips, 'The pencil is mightier than the pen.'
That's the whole thing: to obtain static and Dynamic Quality simultaneously. If you don't have the static patterns of scientific knowledge to build upon you're back with the cave man. But if you don't have the freedom to change those patterns you're blocked from any further growth.
You can see that where political institutions have improved throughout the centuries the improvement can usually be traced to a static-Dynamic combination: a king or constitution to preserve the static, and a parliament or jury that can act as a Dynamic eraser; a mechanism whereby new Dynamic insight can wipe out old static patterns without destroying the government itself.
Phaedrus was surprised by the conciseness of a commentary on Robert's Rules of Order that seemed to capture the whole thing in two sentences: No minority has a right to block a majority from conducting the legal business of the organization. No majority has a right to prevent a minority from peacefully attempting to become a majority. The power of those two sentences is that they create a stable static situation where Dynamic Quality can flourish.
In the abstract, at least. When you get to the particular it's not so simple.
It seems as though any static mechanism that is open to Dynamic Quality must also be open to degeneracy to falling back to lower forms of quality.
This creates the problem of getting maximum freedom for the emergence of Dynamic Quality while prohibiting degeneracy from destroying the evolutionary gains of the past. Americans like to talk about all their freedom but they think it's disconnected from something Europeans often see in America: the degeneracy that goes with the Dynamic.
It seems as though a society that is intolerant of all forms of degeneracy shuts off its own Dynamic growth
and becomes static. But a society that tolerates all forms of degeneracy degenerates. Either direction can be dangerous. The mechanisms by which a balanced society grows and does not degenerate are difficult, if not impossible, to define.
How can you tell the two directions apart? Both oppose the status quo. Radical idealists and degenerate hooligans sometimes strongly resemble each other.
Jazz was generally considered degenerate music when it first appeared. 'Modern' art was considered degenerate.
When you define morality scientifically as that which enhances evolution it sounds as though you have really solved the problem of what morality is. But then when you try to say specifically what is and what isn't evolution and where evolution is going, you find you are right back in the soup again. The problem is that you can't really say whether a specific change is evolutionary at the time it occurs. It is only with a century or so of hindsight that it appears evolutionary.
For example, there was no way those Zuni priests could have known that this fellow they were hanging by his thumbs was going to turn into some future savior of their tribe. Here was a drunken bragging window-peeper who told the authorities they could all go to hell and they couldn't do anything to him. What were they supposed to do? What else could they do? They couldn't let every damn degenerate in Zuni do as he pleased on the ground that he might, at some future date, save the tribe. They had to enforce the rules to hold the tribe together.
This is really the central problem in the static-Dynamic conflict of evolution: how do you tell the saviors from the degenerates? Particularly when they look alike, talk alike and break all the rules alike? Freedoms that save the saviors also save the degenerates and allow them to tear the whole society apart. But restrictions that stop the degenerates also stop the creative Dynamic forces of evolution.
It was almost a custom for people to come to New York, prophesy a doomsday of one sort or another and then wait for it to descend. They're doing it now. But so far the doomsday has never come. New York has always been going to hell but somehow it never gets there. Always changing. Always changing for the worse, it seems, but then right in the middle of the worse comes this new Dynamic thing that nobody ever heard of before and the worse is forgotten because this new Dynamic thing (which is also getting worse) has taken its place. What looks like hell always turns out to be something else.