Toxic in Large Doses

“The primary aspect of specialization is practical; the specialist withdraws from responsibility for everything not comprehended by his specialty. Each specialization, Ransom says, ‘has had to resist the insidious charms of aesthetic experience before its own perfection could arise.’ But this is a perfection of a kind never before contemplated in human history- a perfection that depends upon the abandonment of all the old ideals of harmony, symmetry, balance, order, in favor of the singular totalitarian ideal of control, which is typically achieved by leaving out or discounting or destroying whatever is not subject to control. Our achievement of this sort of control over certain particles of the Creation has given rise to the supposition that such control is possible on a much grander scale, which would permit us to bring nature and history into line with our intentions. There is no need, I think, to dwell on the moral degeneracy, the spiritual misery, the abuses and wastes of power that are the result of this ambition. And we are every day surrounded by more evidence of its futility. Human control on any grand scale is impossible, and the technological and political controls that are possible are frequently the opposite of order; any viable human order must come to terms with the impossibility of absolute control.”

-Wendell Barry in his essay, “The Specialization of Poetry” in Standing by Words, pp 4-5

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