Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Moving Like Raccoon

Moving Like Raccoon


By John Taylor; 2010 Oct 06, Mashiyyat 10, 167 BE

When my children were young, they had a favourite toy which they called their "raccoon" (they are sometimes marketed as "Weazel Balls"). Raccoon was a yellow plastic ball connected to a fluffy, brown and white "tail". When they placed it on a smooth surface and flipped its switch, it vibrated furiously, rolling forward, sideways, every which way. Wobbling erratically, there was no way to guess which direction it would go next, to the consternation of Malley, our cat, and the children's delight. Raccoon's gyres and gimbals amused childish minds while exasperating the ordered feline imagination; in Hamlet's words, it made the "unskilful laugh but the judicious grieve." We all wondered how Raccoon got its strange, stutter step. When the batteries ran down we opened up the yellow sphere and found its secret. The erratic motion came from a clever design; an off center electric motor did nothing but vibrate while opposite were its batteries, which acted as a counterweight. The gyrations came from alternating balance and imbalance between these two weights.

Raccoon's mechanism is an apt metaphor for the incomplete, economic globalism that is putting our times out of joint. The ordered mind wants our thoughts and actions to synchronize and our world to roll straight forward. But an invisible misalignment in the design forces a wobble. If our education does not produce balanced citizens, if it trains only narrow-minded specialists who are sophisticated technically but clueless in ethics, philosophy and spirituality, is it any surprise that lives are unbalanced and politics disruptive? Institutions and interests work against one another in a crazy spin it is impossible to say in what direction events will roll.


One result is globalization. Quicker transportation encourages free trade across borders, making the economy more global. Meanwhile most peoples' hearts and minds are glued to one location, set in the past. At the same time, the Internet pushes hearts and minds into instantaneous travel in cyberspace, which is far faster than any transportation could ever become. As a result, individuals spin around their own "batteries" instead of the center of the whole. The source of energy aligns with us not the whole. Fanatics and partisans proliferate. They earnestly support causes which, one way or another, contradict one another. As a result, our global center spins, bursts forward, halts and turns in a completely different direction. Instead of world order everything resolves into a flittering Brownian motion.


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