The Drifter, The Worshiper & The Destroyer

As I was reading Alfred Korzybski’s The Manhood of Humanity I came across this very interesting passage. I thought it appropriate to share it with my readers.

In our relationship to the past there are three wide-open ways in which one may be a fool.

One of the ways is the way of ignoring the past – the way of remaining blankly ignorant of the human past as the animals are blankly ignorant of their past and sort of drifting through life as animals do, without reference to the experience of bygone generations. Fools of this type may be called drifting fools or Drifters.

Another way to be a fool – a very alluring way – is that of falsifying the past by idealizing it – by stupidly disregarding its vices, misery, ignorance, slothfulness, and folly, and stupidity magnifying its virtues, happiness, knowledge, achievements and wisdom; it is the way of the self-complacent – the way of those who, being comfortably situated and prosperous, are opposed to change; the past, they say, was wise for it produced the present and the present is good – let us alone. Fools of this type may be called idolatrous fools, worshiping the Past; or static fools, content with the Present; or cowardly fools, opposed to change, fearful of the Future.

A third way to be a fool – which is also alluring – is the opposite of the foregoing; it is the way of those who falsify the past by stupidly and contemptuously disregarding its virtues, its happiness, its knowledge, its great achievement, and its wisdom, and by stupidly or dishonestly magnifying its vices, its misery, its ignorance, its great slothfulness, and its folly; it is apt to be the way of the woeful, the unprosperous, the desperate – especially the way of such as find escape from the bore of routine life in the excitements of unrest, turbulence, and change; the past they say, was all wrong, for it produced the present and the present is thoroughly bad – let us destroy it, root and branch. Fools of this type may be called scorning fools, Scorners of the Past; or destroying fools, Destroyers of the Present; or dynamic fools, Revelers in the excitement of Change.

Such are the children of folly.

Do not ignore the past but study it – study it diligently as being the mightiest factor among the great factors of our human world; endeavor to view the past justly, to contemplate it as it was and is, to see it whole… it is only in proportion as we learn to know the great facts of our human past and their causes that we are enabled to understand our human present, for the present is the child of the past; and it is only proportion as we thus learn to understand the present that we can face the future with confidence and competence.

(Source: Alfred Korzybski “The Manhood of Humanity”; chapter IX; pagers 167, 168, 169, 170, 171 & 172)