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18 October 2011

Aldous Huxley on the Contradiction of Structure and Agency

I recently remembered this quote from Aldous Huxley's Island (specifically, the Old Raja's Notes on What's What), and it seems to speak to some of the issues I've discussed with regard to structure and agency, as well as the concept of freedom.
The dancer's grace and, forty years on, her arthritis---both are functions of the skeleton. It is thanks to an inflexible framework of bones that the girl is able to do her pirouettes, thanks to the same bones, grown a little rusty, that the grandmother is condemned to a wheelchair. Analogously, the firm support of a culture is the prime-condition of all individual originality and creativeness; it is also their principal enemy. The thing in whose absence we cannot possibly grow into a complete human being is, all too often, the thing that prevents us from growing.  

It's further evidence that almost everything I ever needed to know is in this little portion of this short novel.  Actually, with Bateson and Huxley, I think I could be set for life - maybe with a little Latour thrown in. 

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