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When Men Become Nem
Think of "Nem" as the twenty-first century moniker for those we have hitherto called "Renaissance Men"—steeped in the scientific knowledge and artistic achievements of their—and previous—times, athletic and heroic of physique, animated and curious of mind, generous and convivial of spirit, passionate and profound of soul and conviction, fulfilled in body and intellect yet aspiring always to greater heights … such men are Nem.
Why do I wish to speak of them? Because they are magnificent … and they are our future.
The events of our age make it starkly clear that humanity is at a crossroads in its evolution, as critical as was the transition from perceptual to conceptual thought.
Were she conscious, were she benevolent and could she speak, Nature would have said to us at that turning point: "Take this unique tool I am giving you and use it to upgrade yourself from the mud and the ooze. Do not any longer accept me as I am, but tame and transform me for your edification. Use this tool—your free-functioning rational mind—to protect yourself from my rages, refine and enhance my delights, and make compacts with your brothers so that you may live in harmony with them. Use it to vanquish me—and those of your brothers who retain the brute methods of social intercourse that were the norm before I gave you this gift." Sadly, we have only partially heeded those admonitions, and have continued to use the faculty of conceptual thought in the very service of that previous norm: brute force. Thus we see an evolutionary anomaly—we brought conceptual thought and its inseparable twin, volition, into play, yet continue to treat each other as though we had neither.
Examples of this anomaly abound in the headlines each day. They range from the brute to the subtle, from the murder of schoolchildren in Beslan to the call by supposedly educated Americans for an end to "outsourcing" (a phenomenal boon to hitherto Nem-deficient regions of the earth, providing at the same time new markets for its Nem-rich countries of origin)—which "end," of course, can be achieved only by … force. Inescapably, an intelligent observer is drawn to the conclusion that though we have had the wherewithal to do so for millennia, we have singularly failed to effect a widespread transformation from paleolithic men to New Enlightenment Men.
It has happened, fitfully and inspiringly, of course, at certain times in recent history, the old Enlightenment being one of them. That we have come this far shows that there must always have been individual prototypes of Nem in our midst, many horrendously martyred (Bruno) or nearly martyred (Galileo) for being such. If we are fortunate, we can identify Nem among our friends—in my own case such names as Chris Sciabarra, Tibor Machan, Derek McGovern, Cam Pritchard, Peter Cresswell and Carol Potts, Larry Sechrest and Molly Hays, Chris and Cindy Lewis, Michael Newberry, Jeff Landauer, Marcus Bachler, Jennifer Iannolo, Joe Rowlands and many others come to mind ("heroic of physique" may be a stretch in some cases!). SOLO’s Writers-In-Residence Barbara Branden and James Kilbourne clearly belong there. On the international stage we recognise Nem among dare-devil entrepreneurs, occasionally among politicians (Reagan and Thatcher), epoch-changing scientists ... and life-changing artists, writers and musicians. These are Aristotle’s "noble-souled ones," Ayn Rand’s Galts, Dagnys and d’Anconias, real among us, in the flesh.
To speak of an "evolutionary anomaly" is, of course, a bit of a misnomer, as it could be taken to mean that we evolved blindly into it and can rely on evolution to fix it. We cannot. The transformation of men to Nem can only occur by choice … and the generic "we" of whom I have spoken cannot make that choice—teeming millions of individual minds must make that choice as a matter of choice. But those who have already made it can combine to create a culture, and that culture can in turn influence those currently beyond its reach … and then the globe may yet be salvaged from terrorism and trash.
The spirit of Nem was beautifully captured by one of them, Robert Green Ingersoll, in a time of an abundance of them, the nineteenth century. He spoke of "The Improved Man":
"He will know that each man should be his own priest, and that the brain is the real cathedral. He will know that in the realm of the mind there is no authority—that majorities in this mental world can settle nothing—that each soul is the sovereign of its own world, and that it cannot abdicate without degrading itself. He will not bow to numbers or force, neither to antiquity nor custom. ... [H]e will appreciate all that is artistic—that is beautiful—that tends to refine and ennoble the human race. … He will enjoy not only the sunshine of life, but will bear with fortitude the darkest days. He will have no fear of death. About the grave there will be no terrors, and his life will end as serenely as the sun rises. … The Improved Man will be self-poised, independent, candid and free. He will be a scientist. He will observe, investigate, experiment and demonstrate. He will use his sense and his senses. He will keep his mind open as the day to the hints and suggestions of nature. He will always be a student, a learner and a listener—a believer in intellectual hospitality. In the world of his brain there will be continuous summer, perpetual seed-time, and harvest. Facts will be the foundation of his faith. In one hand he will carry the torch of truth, and with the other, raise the fallen."
Nem of SOLO, I commend these sentiments to your exalted attention.
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