Departments

Perpetual Peace

FROM I. Bickerstaff, The Endower Institute History of the 21st Century, pp. 55-60 ff. Hoboken: Endower Institute Press, 2207.

In 2045 the Endower Institute organized the GSPW (Group for the Study of the Phenomenon of War) to conduct an indisciplinary study of game theory, war-gaming, and evolutionary psychology. An elaborate computer simulation had originally been planned, but finally the participants in the War Study were issued modified versions of off-the-shelf strategy board games. In the next four months, playing these games became the jobs of the study participants in a literal sense, as they were paid based on their performance in the game. (Several had to be "fired" for bizarre behavior, such as repeatedly concentrating their forces in Madagascar.)

The curious first result was that players in versions of the game altered to penalize war-waging (by introducing a random element weighted towards the defeat of the aggressor), and to reward commerce and diplomacy, waged war more often than players in the unmodified games. Players in altered and unmodified versions were about equal in other suboptimal behaviors to be expected in connection with war (refusal to recognize imminent defeat, underestimation of the enemy, refusal to compromise between strategic goals when they became incompatible).

But the usual irrationalities would not suffice to explain why an increase in the difficulty and uncertainty of war would result in an increase in the rate of war waged.

The hypothesis, which the Second War Study would confirm, was that human beings were, for sound evolutionary reasons, prejudiced to regard violence in general, including war, as open-ended. As Dr. Abraham "Abe" Saintpierre, then Director of the Institute, later explained in his book The Cornered Instinct:

An animal which has been backed into a corner is likelier to die than an animal being chased in a field. Although from a game-theoretical point of view, the animal should, to gain the best long-term results, instinctually fight its hardest when it has the best chance for survival, we find the opposite; it is the doomed animal, the cornered animal, that is fiercest. Likewise, we find that those human beings are most admired which exert themselves to the fullest at the last minute, or in an emergency, even to a degree which, under ordinary circumstances, would be considered absurd.


The conclusion reached by the GSPW was that these behaviors arose from a hypothetical "short-circuit" which might take place in the brains of mammals in violent situations. As Abe Saintpierre said in his 2058 lecture to the World Post War Society:

We realized that cornered behavior could not be a rational reaction at all. It must in some sense be evolutionary advantageous to be irrational in this respect. We had been studying a false dilemma. The survivability of the species required the sacrifice of the survivability of the individual in such a way that, in certain situations, the rational optimizer and the irrational gambler must be the same person.


Their insight came through a thought experiment involving two "characters". The first was known as "the Rabbit". The Rabbit always acts in such a war as to maximize the probability of his own survival by minimizing (through avoidance) anything that threatens his survival. The second was known as "the Wolverine." The Wolverine's maxim is always to spend higher quantities of any finite resource (energy, money, or so forth) as the probability of his survival decreases. What should have been obvious (according to Saintpierre's memoir, My Project) but did not show up until the simulations were run, was that in most situations their behaviors would be the same; and that, while in some border cases the Wolverine lost his life unnecessarily, it was in fact the Wolverine, not the Rabbit who stood the best chance of survival, given any nontrivial rate of dangerous situations which could not be avoided. Wrote Saintpierre: "The best long-term strategy of survival, given unavoidable dangers, is in extreme probability of death to replace optimization according to probability with optimization according to possibility." Later, he restated the principle as: "In a crazy situation, the sane thing is to go crazy."

The solution to the problem of the high-waging gamers was then simple: "As the probability of victory decreased, so did the player's attention to the probabilities." As the odds turned against them, they ignored the odds.

The War Studies became the centerpiece of Saintpierre's monograph The Last Argument: The Instinct for War. In this book (an unexpected best-seller), Saintpierre contended that it was human nature to regard war as open-ended, even when the conclusion was objectively foregone. Negotiations, he pointed out, are begun with some idea of the treaty likely to issue from them; trials (in the first instance), of the verdict; but everyone believes that they can win a war. "Wars are not lost once victory becomes impossible for the losing side; wars are only lost once there is nothing, however pointless, left to try; once there is no hope left to cling to." Rational forms of conflict resolution, in Saintpierre's view, could not substitute for war because they did not make the participants feel cornered. Not feeling cornered, they were not confident that victory must, eventually, be theirs; and therefore, they were not be willing to commit themselves fully. His position was that a real bloodless means of conflict resolution would require a strong admixture of irrationality and open-endedness.

It was according to this theory that Saintpierre endowed, with his own profits from the book and the contributions of several philanthropists (including the Estate of Wildcard Endower), the Court of Circular Appeals, a body whose stated aim was to render only provisional decisions in conflicts of international law. "It is only by offering an inexhaustible, receding supply of false hope," wrote Saintpierre to a friend, "that we can create a bloodless activity which will be the psychological equivalent of war."

Saintpierre did not make the mistake of trying to recruit the first-world nations into his scheme directly. Instead, he began by traveling with the whole Court into the most unstable areas of the world, in order to render judgments in sub-national conflicts of tribes, cartels, and so on. Soon the entourage of the Court, comprising advocates ceaselessly debating all the causes into which the Court had interposed itself, had reached such a scale that it could not continue to travel, and took up permanent headquarters in Switzerland. Later, when Saintpierre discovered that a pair of African tribes had impoverished themselves to the point of starvation to pay their advocates at the Court, he caused a portion of the Court's fees to be diverted to humanitarian organizations, to be used in alleviating whatever misery the Court might cause.

After its first decade the Court could no longer remain in Switzerland. The road systems of that tiny, mountainous country could not support the logistical needs of the advocate corps of the first-world nations. Offers of land were made from every quarter; but, to the world's surprise, the offer Saintpierre accepted was in Israel. "It is best," he said shortly before his death, "that the Court remain as close as possible to what has been the most fought-over region of the world."

Thus, today the traveler hears the shouting of the advocate corps engaged in ceaseless argument on the plains below, even before he comes into sight of the shining World Headquarters of the Court of Circular Appeals upon the hill of Megiddo.

Formality

Architects can play with every other part of a building. With computers to assist them, and steel to uphold them, as if in clay they can twist, stretch, and hollow walls, roofs, and floors, even merge them; as if on canvas they can lead the eye, or foil it, or trap it. But every good staircase is like every other. The form can be adorned or hidden, or banished either in one-story buildings or by substitution with elevators—but not overcome. There is a limited range of acceptable slopes for a staircase, to which all must conform, or risk injuring their users. Each step must be predictable, and exactly like every other. Stair-climbing is an unconscious, algorithmic act. So is walking, so is typing, so is riding a bicycle; but climbing stairs belongs to a different class—along with driving a car—where error threatens with death. For a joke, you can trip, or fall off a bicycle; but not crash a car, or fall down the stairs. You have time to get to know a new car; but a new set of stairs should not require individual attention.

Consider music. Formality is obvious in classical music. The piece, to be played well, must be considered as something to be reached; and the performer can always fall along the way, by insubordination to the conductor or by infidelity to the composer. Audience members have every right to resent this, however the performer excuses it. Something that mars a performance hits the listener with a jerk—it is the performer who trips up, but the audience who falls. Formality is less obvious, but equally important, in jazz. A sequence of improvisations is not a showcase of individual performers. It is not that every player is an orchestra, but that every player is a conductor. An arrogant classical player is a rebel in a monarchy; an arrogant jazz player, a demagogue in a democracy.

But songwriting is the most formal kind of music. It is because the blues is a rigid form that it can bear the distortions of strong emotion; and indeed, people are never so still as when overwhelmed. If we can, we sit to cry. All popular music has strong, formal structure; which makes it easy to gather with its kin into playlists, and makes it possible for the supply to be kept up. And it is by their formality—by how much alike they are in form—that songs are individualized. Any two pieces of classical music, each with a different structure, sound at first much more alike than any two popular songs, each sharing the same chord structure, rhyme scheme, and instrumentation; just as, although trees are more unlike one another than one person is unlike another, we see the difference between two people more clearly, and find more weight in it, than the difference between two trees.

The danger of too much formality is easy to see. Most of what is worth attaining in life is not repeatable, and is lessened when approached as if it were. Experiences which are had only once do not benefit by formality. Of the rest, some are recurring, but not meaningfully repeatable. They can happen more than once, but are less like climbing stairs than climbing a mountain—which does not, I imagine, improve by being done often. The rest is the repeatable. And repeatable experiences may be no less valuable than singular ones—I would not trade music for youth.

The danger of informality is easy to fall into. Consider poets. Poets are rare for reasons that have nothing to do with poetry (most become songwriters now, who would once have been poets); but those poets that there are, write less than the old poets. This is because of their informality. Free verse is dangerously therapeutic. A good poem in free verse is a unique victory—not the imprint of an emotion, but its draining and defeat. Such poets fail when they approach something that is common to all, and so cannot be exhausted. They cannot make poetry, either of the everyday, or of the ideal.

But think of Petrarch; with the sonnet for his stair he could ascend to and return from the experience of the moment in which he saw (saw so that he therefore loved) his Laura; and as many times as he climbed up to and down from that moment, he never emptied it. Informality always stays on the ground floor; to rise, you must commit yourself to some form capable of bearing you up.

Esperanto

For the Esperanto-day celebrations of Esperanto-USA.
Pro la morgaŭa Esperanto-tago blogfiesto de Esperanto-USA. Kvankam Esperanto estas alta amiko de mi, mi ne ofte vizitas; tial, bonvolu pardoni iujn ajn barbaraĵojn aŭ erarojn.

English is the farthest-spread auxiliary language in use; but it is not the only one, nor is it the most used. Mandarin in China, Standard Arabic in the Middle East, Swahili in Africa, Tagalog in the Phillipines, Castilian in Spain, Russian in Asia, all function as auxiliary languages. Esperanto has a unique place in this accounting; though it has few speakers, they are very broadly spread, and constitute a community.

La angla lingvo estas la plej etendiĝita helplingvo; sed si estas nek la nura, kaj nek la plej ofte uzata. La mandarina dialekto en Ĉinujo, la norma araba lingvo en la Mezoriento, la svahila lingvo en Afriko, la tagaloga lingvo en la Filipinaj Insuloj, la kastilia dialekto en Hispanujo, la rusa lingvo en Asio; ĉiu rimedas kiel helplingvo. Esperanto havas ununuran lokon en ĉi tiu nombrado: si fore etendiĝas, kaj formas kommunumon.

Most Esperanto speakers are of one of four kinds—those who are born English speakers, and those who are not; those for whom Esperanto is their first learned language, and those for whom it is their last.

Estas plejparte kvar specoj de Esperantistoj: denaskaj anglaparlantoj, kaj tiuj ne tiel naskiĝis; tiuj al kiuj Esperanto estas la unue lernita lingvo, kaj tiuj al kiuj Esperanto estas la lasta.

1. It calls for explanation that an English speaker would bother to learn Esperanto. I can only address English-speaking Americans. We are not monolingual because of laziness. We live in an enormous, monolingual country, by itself enough to slake any ordinary wanderlust; and though there are significant minorities speaking other languages, these are likely to take efforts to speak with them in their own languages as mockery or presumption. They are used to speaking English with outsiders. Instrusions on their language are intrusions on their community as tactless as aping their holidays or spectating at their religious rituals. There are institutions, clubs and classes, to provide interaction in some common languages; but there is an air of desperation around all this. But Esperanto speakers, simply by their choice to learn the language, show that they are seriously interested in foreign communication; and with the Internet, the learner has every chance to interact with them. And for English speakers as for others, there is special benefit making Esperanto their first learned language.

1. Necesas komprenebligon, ke angloparlanto penus por lerni Esperanto. Mi nur traktu angloparlantajn usonanojn. Ni ne estas plejparte unulingvismaj ĉar pigrecon. Ni loĝas en granda, unulingvisma lando, mem sufiĉe granda por satigi iujn ajn ĝustan vagdeziron; kaj kvankam estas rimarkindaj malplimultoj, kiuj parolas aliajn lingvojn, tiuj plejparte taksas provojn je conversacio kun ili, en la lingvo, kiel mokoj aŭ entrudiĝoj. Ili kutimas paroli nur la anglan lingvon kun eksteranoj. Entrudiĝoj al ilia lingvo estas entrudiĝoj al sia kommuneco, kiel malagrablaj tiel mokimiti la feriojn aŭ spekti la religajn ritojn. Estas institucioj, kluboj kaj kursoj, por liveri parolon en iuj oftaj lingvoj; sed estas ĉirkaŭ ĉi tio medio de afekteco. Sed Esperantistoj, simple per la elekto lerni la lingvon, vidigas ke ili grave interesiĝas en alilanda komunikado; kaj, en la aĝo de la Interreto, ĉiuj lernantoj havas ĉiu ŝanco por paroli unu kun la alia. Kaj same al angloparlantoj, kiel al la aliaj, estas speciala bono en unue lerni Esperanton.

2. Many English speakers have the fatuous notion that they can hear of everything which goes on in the world that is worth hearing of. Which is half-true: one could hear, but one does not hear. Countries contrive as a matter of policy to represent themselves favorably to the English speaking world; and, especially with cable news, what we encounter of foreign countries is their plausibly English-speaking representatives. But these are a kind of actor. Those English speakers who have learned any foreign language well enough to follow its news will appreciate how large the disparity can be. And though there is no Esperanto news service, it informally accomplishes the desired broadening of perspective. When Esperanto is learned for this purpose, it is usually as a last language. Notwithstanding neurology, to learn a new language is harder for an adult than for a child mostly because there is, by an order of magnitude, both less opportunity and less pressure. I cannot with confidence say that if you can learn only one language, it should be Esperanto; but learning Esperanto is much better than never learning a language, which is often the other choice.

2. Multaj angloparlantoj havas la stultan ideon ke ili povas aŭdi ĉiun, ke okazas en la mundo, kaj ke indas esti aŭdata. Tiu estas duonvera: oni povus aŭdi, sed oni ne aŭdas. Landoj klopodas kiel afero de politiko ŝajni agrable al la angloparlanta mundo; kaj, precipe en televidaj novaĵoj, oni trovas de aliaj landoj plejparte iliajn kredeblaspektajn angloparlantajn ŝajnigistoj. Sed ĉi tiuj estas speco de aktoro. Tiuj angloparlantoj, kiuj lernas iun ajn alilandan lingvon sufiĉe bone por sekvi la novaĵojn, sciias kiel granda la foreco povas esti. Kaj, kvankam estas neniu Esperanto novaĵservo, ĝi senformale sukcesigas la deziritan etendon de vidpunkto. Kiam oni lernas Esperanto por ĉi tiu celo, estas kutime kiel lasta lingvo. Malgraŭ neurologio, lerni novan lingvon estas pli dificila al plenkreskuloj ol al infanoj, plejparte ĉar, laŭ kvazaŭ-matematika ordo de vasteco, estas ambaŭ malplimulta ŝanco, kaj malplimulta devigo. Mi ne diru ke, se oni lernas nur unu lingvon, tiu estu Esperanto; sed lerni Esperanton estas multe pli bona ol neniam lerni lingvon, kiu ofte estas la alia elekto.

3. The speaker of a language not of Indo-European descent has good reason to learn Esperanto before any other language—even before English. Esperanto is not effortless, but it is both the fastest way to learn a real, usable language, and the fastest way to learn how to learn a language. Those who have studied more than one know that the first, even if itself relatively easy, is the hardest—for one must at once learn the language; learn what needs to be learned of it; and learn how best to learn it. Even if your object is to learn English, learning Esperanto first is likely to save time. English is full of dangers even for native speakers. It is one of the languages best for poetry because it is a language of poetry. One must be half or more a poet to speak it at all. Borges did us the honor, in Spanish, of calling English "that infinite language." It seems to me miraculous that English can be taught at all. I suspect that these miracles are inevitabilities of statistics—try to teach English to enough people, and some must succeed—which implies that most, thrust into English classes, do not profit by them. Education in English would be much surer if built on the foundation of Esperanto.

3. La parlanto de nehindoeŭropa lingvo havas bonan rezonon al lerni Esperanton antaŭ iun ajn alian lingvon, eĉ antaŭ la anglan lingvon. Esperanto ne estas sen peno, sed estas ambaŭ la plej rapida rimedo al lerni veran, uzeblan lingvon, kaj la plej rapida rimedo al lerni, kiel lingvon lerni. Tiuj, kiuj lernas pli ol unu lingvon, scias ke la unua, eĉ se ĝi mem estas komparate facila, estas la plej dificila, ĉar oni samtempe lernu la lingvon; lernu kion oni devas lerni; kaj lernu, kiel oni plej bone lernas. Eĉ se vi celas lerni la anglan lingvon, unue lerni Esperanton konservus tempon kaj penon. La anglolingvo estas plena kun danĝeroj eĉ por la denaskaj parlantoj. Ĝi estas apud la plej agrablaj lingvoj al poezio, ĉar si estas lingvo de poezio. Oni devas esti duone aŭ pliparte poeziisto por paroli ĝin. Borges, en la hispana lingvo, moŝte nomis la anglan lingvon "tiu senfina lingvo." Ŝajnas al mi kiel mirego, ke iu ajn, iam ajn, povas nedenaske lerni la anglan lingvon. Mi suspektas ke ĉi tiu mirego estas de certeco de statistiko; se oni provas lernigi la anglan lingvon al sufiĉe multaj personoj, iuj devas sukcesi; kaj ĉi tiu necesigas ke la plejparto, truditaj ĉe anglalingvaj kursoj, ne profitas per ili. Edukado en la anglalingvo estus pli certa, se si estus konstruita bazante sur Esperanton.

4. Now, however bad be English monolingualism, all other monolingualisms must be worse. The best way out is English; but even where English instruction is a formality, it is unlikely to stick much longer than algebra instruction; and to dedicate oneself to learn or re-learn English is possible only with strength to sustain the effort and leisure to undertake it. Lacking either of these, one can still learn Esperanto, still open a window onto the larger world.

4. Nu, kiel ajn malbona estas angloparlanta unulingvismo, tutaj aliaj unulingvismoj devas esti pli malbonaj. La plej bona eskapo estas per la angla lingvo; sed eĉ kie one formale lernas la anglan lingvon, ĝi ne verŝajne adheras al oni pli longe ol algebro; kaj oni nur povas meti sin al lerni aŭ relerni la anglan lingvon, kun forteco pro daŭri la lukton, kaj kvieto pro klopodi ĝin. Sen ambaŭ de ĉi tiuj, oni ankoraŭ povas lerni Esperanto; ankoraŭ povas malfermi fenestron je la granda mundo.

Besides these four, there are the fabled born speakers. There are the polyglots who pick it up for fun. There are constructors of languages (like Tolkien, who kept a youthful journal in Esperanto), whose progress in the art may be judged by how unlike Esperanto their work is. There are those who believe that Esperanto is only held back by some deficiency—with about equal frequency, that it is too unlike natural languages, or too like them—and that their perfected successor of Esperanto would, if Esperanto would get out of the way, spread virally and unite the world. And I could imagine other uses for Esperanto, as, for example, as a medium of translation. Instead of rare bilingual translators working alone, one could train, nearly as needed, pairs of translators, one from the target language into Esperanto, the other from Esperanto into the language desired. So that instead of trying on short notice to find someone equally fluent in English and some language gaining in importance—say, Arabic—one could take a number of Arabic speakers and teach them Esperanto; which could likely be done with application within a few months. Or: if we in the English-speaking world cannot bring ourselves to appoint diplomats which know the native languages of the countries they are responsible for, they could at least be required to learn Esperanto, if only to know that English is not the only language in the world, and that a lazy reliance on English is nothing to be proud of.

Krom ĉi tiuj kvar, estas la mirindaj denaskaj parlantoj. Estas multlingvismanoj, kiuj lernas ĝin por gajo. Estas konstruistoj de lingvoj (ekzemple Tolkien, kiu, kiel junulo, verkis taglibron en Esperanto), kaj kies progreso en la arto oni juĝu laŭ kiom iliaj verkoj diferencas de Esperanto. Estas tiuj, kiuj ŝajnas kredi ke Esperanto teniĝas per iu eraro—ju ofte, ĉar ĝi tro diferencas de nacilingvoj, des ĉar si tro similas al ili; kaj ke, se Esperanto lasus la vojon, ilia perfektigita sekvantaĵo de Esperanto etendus viruse, kaj unuigus la mundon. Kaj mi povas imagi aliajn uzojn de Esperanto, ekzemple kiel mezo en tradukarto. Anstataŭ maloftaj dulingvismanaj tradukistoj laborantaj unuope; oni povas anstatauigi, preskaŭ kiel ofte tiel oni bezonas, duopojn de tradukistoj, unu tradukanta de la celata lingvo en Esperanton, kaj la alia tradukanta de Esperanto en la nacilingvon. Tiel, anstataŭ oni subite provus trovi iun, kiu havas egalan sperton en la angla lingvo kaj en iu lingvo kreskanta en graveco—ekzemple, la araba lingvo—oni povus kolekti iujn araboparlantojn kaj lernigi al ili Esperanton; kiun verŝajne oni povus, klopode, en malmultoj monatoj lernigi. Aŭ: se ni en la anglaparlanta mondo ne povas daŭri sendi diplomatojn, kiuj sciias la nacilingvojn; ni almenaŭ devigu ke si lernas Esperanton, se nur por si sciu ke la angla lingvo ne estas la nura lingvo en la mondo, kaj ke pingra apogado de la angla lingvo ne estas fierinda.

These are the shifts by which the golden hope of Esperanto has survived the unhopeful twentieth century; a survival which seems to me a miracle, like one of those survivals before a blast in what scientists call "shock cocoons", where congealed fire flows around some sacrificial obstacle and spares what shelters behind. Hitherto, it is not Esperanto which has failed the human race; it is the human race which has failed Esperanto. We do not, it appears, have that will to understand each other, to know each other as human beings, to establish peace not as an institution but as a right, which Zamenhof made Esperanto to arm.

Laŭ ĉi tiuj rimedoj la orŝtofa esperingo de Esperanto daŭris trans la neesperanta dudeka jarcento. Tiu daŭro vidigas al mi kiel daŭro trans volkana erupforto, in kiun scientistoj nomas "skuega kokono," kie oferaĵo fendas la dikinta, fluanta brulfajro kaj savas la kaŝiĝanton. Ĝis nun Esperanto ne malsukcesas je la homaro; la homaro malsukcesas je Esperanto. Ni ne havas, ŝajne, tiun volon al unu la alian kompreni, al koni unu la alian kiel homo, al fondi pacon ne kiel institucio, sed kiel rajto, pro kiu Zamenhofo liveris Esperanton.

We do say we want peace; but however hard we strive for it, if we strive from within our own nations—even by the vaunted grassroots efforts which the Internet capacitates—we leave it in the hands of governments; between peoples who cannot comprehend each other, there cannot be peace, only treaty.

Ni diras ke ni deziras pacon; sed, kiel ajn ni penas pro ĝi, se ni penas ene niaj mem landoj—eĉ per la farfonitaj kvazaŭ-herbradikaj penoj kiujn la Interreto ebligas—ni lasas pacon en la manoj de ŝtatoj; inter populoj, se unu ne povas kompreni la alian, ne eblas esti paco, nur traktato.

Esperanto is a way to peace which no government nor ideology controls, and which therefore government and ideologies do not chose to promote; a way to peace whose success, however improbable, depends not on influencing governments—where success is perhaps even less probable—but simply on enough people chosing it. Esperanto is not perfect; but there is nothing else like it, and the need is urgent. To learn Esperanto is a vote of confidence in humanity; and arguments against Esperanto tend to be arguments against the future of humanity—which are not hard to make, but are foolish to live by.

Esperanto estas rimedo por paco, kiun nek ŝtato nek ideologio regas, kaj kiun tial ŝtatoj kaj ideologoj ne elektas pluigi; rimedo por paco kies sukceso, kiel ajn neverŝajna, ne bezonus influi ŝtatoj—kies sukceso estas eble ja malpli verŝajna;sed simple je sufiĉe multaj personoj elekti ĝin. Esperanto ne estas perfekta; sed estas neniu anstataŭigebla, kaj la neceso estas grava. Lerni Esperanto estas voĉdoni al fido en la homaro; kaj rezonoj kontraŭ Esperanto plejparte ankaŭ estas rezonoj kontraŭ la estonteco de la homaro—kiujn oni facile povas trovi, sed laŭ kiuj oni stulte vivus.

Fiction and thinking

The mind is a lazy mapmaker. When it receives the survey data, it does not draw a new map. Instead, it writes the new names on an old map. Sometimes, it tapes two old maps to make one new; rarely, it cuts several old maps into pieces, then pastes the pieces together tile-wise. The maps from fiction are most useful to it. They are simple, at low resolution, and have few extraneous features which it must ink over or rub out. Indeed, an analogy from philosophy, history, or science does not spread generally until it has found fictional embodiment—in fable, parable, tale, epic, or romance. Think of Plato's cave, think of Gone With the Wind, think of the spacefaring twin and the earthbound.

Analogies do not solve problems, but they are indispensable because they show the right kind of solution—whether force, persuasion, invention, discovery, endurance or sacrifice. The mind looks for what it knows in advance to look for; therefore, the more it knows to look for, the more it finds. The more it knows can happen, the less it is overwhelmed. The more it recognizes folly, the less time it wastes on it.

Film does more of this than literature, though less powerfully. The wrath of Achilles is perhaps less lethal, but is more frightening (because more grown-up), than the wrath of Rambo; neither Leviathan nor Godzilla shall be drawn out with a hook, but Leviathan would not be troubled by an oxygen destroyer. I must recover from even a weak horror story, but (as an adult) a movie has never scared me; the best the medium can do is disgust or disquiet. Film is, at best, still flat, distant, dreamy, intangible, and abstract; and though a wordless medium, it must yet tell—with dialogue, with untethered rovings of the camera, with caricature, with background music—things like weather, smells, the taste of air, everything that dream lacks, which literature can show. But film is more economical and more accessible, whereby it can give more analogies faster, and over a broader range. I do wonder how people who avow that they do not watch movies survive. I cannot believe them—I can believe that they avoid watching things through, but they must catch enough scraps to speak a sort of cultural Basic English.

Much fiction has been accused of corrupting the mind; and some minds have so fallen. The stocked imagination is like black earth: anything will grow in it. Thin soils grow a lesser harvest, but with less labor. Thick soil is hard to manage at first, when weeds take their chance; but it grows a much larger harvest. Which is to say: because it is hard to overcome bad ideas, there is something to be said for a swidden farming of the mind, which, producing few ideas, does not disturb the good-enough ideas it has received; but good ideas can be arrived at only by having many ideas, most bad—and hoeing the bad ones down.

This is clearest for people. People are each bottomlessly unique; without the analogies which fiction from folk tale to epic provides, we could get no traction at all in thinking about one another. It is fiction which allows us to know stranger from enemy.