Gnomicon 193

If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  193
Wednesday 21 November 2012
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Most of the change we think we see in life is
due to truths being in and out of favor.
Robert Frost (26 Mar 1874 – 29 Jan 1963)

I cite this well-known American poet not because I am in love with his poetry but this particular thought-provoking (which does not mean that I necessarily agree with it as a valid generalization – I do not!) take on one of my favorite (as you should know by now) topics: change.  His observation raises a few questions in my mind.  Thought-provoking?  How?

Underlying the sentiment seems to be the idea that there is no change.

Is that not the unavoidable inference to draw from “the change we think we see in life”?  If change is only something “we think we see”, do we not then really see any change?  Is change a phenomenological illusion?  Further, how are we to distinguish between “most” of the change “we think we see” and – apparently – the rest, even if in the minority, of the change “we think we see”.  In other words, the implication appears to be that there is change (most of it) that is simply a figment of our imaginations and then there is change that is very real.

To be outrageously literal and perhaps even naïvely reductive:  but is the change we see from the light of day to the dark of night in any way dependent on certain “truths being in and out of favor”?

I think not!

OK then.

How about the change we not only see but actually experience of growing older?  Surely not a function of “truths being in and out of favor” – unless you keep redfining what ‘old’ and ‘older’ mean.  And summer turning into winter?  Half moon changing into full moon?  Low tide into high tide?  Any of these changes dependent on “truths being in and out of favor”?

Come on, you say.  That’s not the kind of change he was talking about!  Oh!  How do you know that?  Where does he make precise the kind of change he was talking about?

My point is that any possible wisdom or cleverness putatively inherent in the poet’s generalization are precisely not that.  True – I don’t know the larger context of his observation, but as it stands it is to my way of thinking an intellectually sloppy generalization nicely packaged in an intriguing formulation.  No, that probably is not the kind of change Frost was talking about, but my understanding of his words is entirely justified by what he does state.

Very well.  Let’s cut him some slack and, reading his mind as to what he really meant to say, explore some other avenues.

One jumps to mind:  what I was taught in school in the late forties and early fifties about the right kind of breakfast to eat as opposed to what we today ‘know’ is the right kind of breakfast to eat is clearly one example of a change we don’t just think we see but that is very real, and that change is certainly due to nutritional/medcial/cultural truths being once in favor but now quite clearly out of favor.  Yesteryear’s glass of whole milk, two fried eggs, bacon and buttered toast are not today’s perfect breakfast!

Another has to do with that T-zone the doctors on old Camels ads in Life Magazine used to tout as pretty good for the throat.  Remember that one?

Then there was the egg scare of a few decades back, and the horrors of cholesterol. And then the “truths being in and out of favor” on that one changed, and now there was ‘good’ cholesterol and there was ‘bad’ cholesterol, and I’m not just where we are today on that one.

I’m waiting for the new research on smoking to learn that it’s actually as good for you as being fat is …  Well. maybe Robert Frost does have a point or two!

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