I received an email from the editor in chief of a Jewish zine with compliments for Vagabond and a proposal that I write an essay for them in exchange for a prominent link in their zine. I found the proposal challenging and the prospect of a "prominent link" with a well-read web page attractive. So I wrote the article which the editor in chief did not accept because "too philosophical" for his readership. Nothing is too philosophical for Vagabond, so here goes:


By William Markiewicz

For scientists and mathematicians, the universe is composed of patterns, perceived and expressed by formulas. Of the arts, music is the most closely related to an obvious schema of patterns. For other creative expressions it's not so obvious because in literature and painting, especially in figurative painting, meaning overpowers the feeling of pattern which is still at their core. Poetry, which seems to stand at the antipodes of science, is a pattern of words. Dance is movement with pattern, a visual expression of music.

Human history, from groups to individuals is a matter of patterns, though hard to perceive as such because of the countless elements involved. But it is still a matter of patterns even if we perceive it as "chaos" preventing us from predicting future events. Looking back in history, we see a pattern that we translate as 'meaning.' Meaning' is a philosophical, not a scientific notion, and also an abode for feelings. Feeling is like a far away light shining in darkness; good as goal and bad as guide. When survival is at stake a good evaluation of the pattern of reality -- the source of danger -- is more important than the beauty of meaning. The pattern is often quite different from the goal it is supposed to serve, but, as the pattern is the only way of expression available to us, we must accept it. Anyway, all reality is pattern, even 'meaning' is pattern.

Let's take justice as an example. Undoubtedly it is a goal in itself, but the road to it leads through a pattern which has very little to do with justice. Court trials are a show of fighting skills between attorney and defense, politics -- a competition of brainwashing skills, the struggle for woman's rights -- dangerously close to bashing men's rights... Patterns describe how things are and goal -- how they should be. Patterns set the tone because they are really paths of energy (a figure of speech) and so everything adds up to a game of power. This goes for 'ethics,' 'goodness,' 'fraternity,' 'right-wrong' and other qualitative 'meanings.'

Darwin taught us that the 'goal' of life at the most elementary level is survival. At the next, more ambitious level, is the quality of life, meaning security and prosperity. There are patterns in the history of nations and individuals which lead to their triumph or to their doom. Doom is usually the fate of those nations, groups, individuals, who, in this Darwinian universe for one reason or another, have missed their 'pattern' of building safety based on their strength and developed instead qualitative guidelines for existence like philosophical and sentimental 'meanings.'

Brits, Germans, are good examples of nations which didn't content themselves with survival as the only goal, but gave high value to prosperity and security through their strength. At the other end of the scale are Jews whose existence can be summed up as long and 'meaningful,' with short prosperous periods followed by doom, then survival(s).

The Jews are perhaps the only ethno-religious group whose security is based exclusively on the survival of democracy meaning on exterior favourable conditions. Blacks, because of their numerical power are in less immediate danger than the Jews if the system changes. The illusion of security and stability the Jews enjoyed in pre-hitlerian Europe is in force again. Jews thrive everywhere under democracy -- in Germany once again as if nothing happened, in Ukraine, in the USA...

I don't have any recipe/miracle to propose to Jews or, as a matter of fact, to any endangered minority group I can only conclude that the Jews after the Holocaust are like the survivor of a heart attack; it's impossible to simply live as they did before. Tiny Israel cannot guarantee the security of the world's Jews; it's rather the other way around. The period when everybody was armed, and took their security into their own hands is long gone. But the necessity to stay alert is never over and new 'patterns' have to be built. "What" and "how" is not in my qualifications to discuss.

I would like to end with a mention of one of the rare powerful minorities -- an oxymoron -- the Druze, who took their destiny into their own hands. This people of mysterious religion and origin came to Lebanon around one thousand years ago. They've established themselves in mountainous strongholds and become well known as merchants, farmers and warriors. Today, being about ten percent of the population, the Druze remain powerful and respected, as a matter of fact, the elite in Lebanon.

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