Swinging back and forth

Jose M. Montelibano

It would seem like we never learn – in some things. When the pendulum swings more and more towards one end, a point will come when it has to swing back because it cannot continue its present path. This principle is what we never seem to recognize, and, therefore, not learn. There is only a certain point up to where something, or someone, can go. The whole history of mankind shows that a new discovery will send a powerful wave of impact and change but eventually will wane. Then, another discovery or initiative takes over and another cycle of impact and change will play itself out.

In recent decades, we have seen one form of technology after another break into the market and manage to force lifestyle change. The radio happened, followed by the movies, and then television. Each of these made so much impact that lifestyles did change. Soon after, the Betamax and the VHS barged into the market just as computers were penetrating the military and big business. For those old enough to remember how bulky and expensive computers were, and despite their size and speed at that time, it was obvious computers were going to change the world. And they did. They still do with unbelievable speed and volume of data at their beck and call.

Mobile phones introduced themselves as devices for the rich and powerful – but only for a short while. And before the world could fully grasp what mobile phones were doing to change lifestyles again, the Internet came. In one hundred years, in the 20th century, mankind catapulted itself to another dimension so radically different from its whole history. Now, in the 21st century, mankind again will catapult to higher dimensions from the sheer power of its imagination and creativity. Within the 21st century which still has a good 80 years to go, it is already impossible to imagine with clear graphics what the world will be in 2099. But it is much easier to expect how many of what we have today will have disappeared by that time.

What has happened to man’s imagination and creativity where technology is concerned, however, has not happened at the same pace in the journey to maturity of mankind. The constant swing of the pendulum, if it does not contain much human drama in it, would actually be boring as a human routine. So much so that I had to take many looks again. It dawned on me that learning can be slow but not completely stagnant. Man has many moments of stupidity, but not that stupid as not to learn at all.

What is left for me to conclude is that the pendulum swings of human behavior appear to be part of a natural curriculum pf life’s educational program. Persistent observation of personal and group dynamics, especially at a societal level in the last forty years leads me to believe that pendulum swings are inevitable. Man is irresistibly drawn to swing from one end to the other. Wisdom rarely comes before the extremes are reached. It seems we have to experience the pain of the “too much” or the “too little” before real learning happens. Imperceptibly most of the time, learning does occur and then slows down the pendulum swing. But before the swing stops completely, a new one begins.

The new pendulum swing is at a higher level of consciousness or understanding, as though a new subject is being taught but using the same teaching methodology. This becomes more obvious when we look back over human history in the last recorded tens of thousands of years. We see the knowledge level of the primitive ages, its journey to the next level of modernity until we see ourselves today. Much of the superstitions have been cleared by scientific discoveries, like round earth with gravity versus the once-believed flatness of the world. From eon to eon, from era to era, mankind has dramatically grown towards the light in terms of knowledge, mobility, communications, agriculture, and manufacturing industry. The speed of change only increases.

Except where it really matters. More information has made a man more knowledgeable, unquestionably. However, modernity has not influenced wisdom to evolve at the same pace. If there is one thing that has been clearly seemed impervious to the rapidly shifting environment, it is human wisdom. The irony of ironies, many in these modern times look to the wisdom of the ancients in order to better understand why many things remain as primitive as they were. When mankind becomes arrogant with new technology, it is brought to its knees by the immature perspective and behavior of their rich and powerful. Wealth may have been aggressively mined by the few at the top but they have been digging the hole of poverty deeper for billions of human beings. Power has not been more successful either. While there are fewer wars, weaponry is so deadly that nuclear abuse can destroy the whole human race – technology going the wrong way.

The way I see it now, and with a lot of help from individuals who have gone much deeper in study and imagination than me, societies should focus more on building personal relationships and making these relationships the bedrock of lifelong emotional security of people. With inevitable and unmanageable change facing us, we must look to that which changes the least – and that is us, the human being, and our relationship with one another. Beyond this is a predictable fluid or slippery environment where we will have little to hold on to with constancy and consistency.

I am reminded of one sound advice said many ways but meaning only one message, saying “a wise man should build his house on a rock.”

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