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  American humanity
gary e. davis
March 16 , 2019
 
 

To a sojourner, a seafarer, the ever-receding horizon draws one into a promise of fulfilled desire.

So, the initially European idea of “America” across the sea was posited as fulfill-able promise, beyond the chronic melancholy of Europe. “America” was all future and appeal—Supreme Fiction to be made real (destined to wholly be itself)— whereas Europe too easily became all about roots and constraint, too much reality compelling so much need for sublimation (to become something else) from its theology of primal pasts.

Whitman’s enthralled sense of high communalism, of America building itself, captured the spirit of democracy as an affirmative conception of freedom— freedom to...unlike the European conception of negative freedom from. (I’m very grateful to Andrew Delbanco, The Real American Dream, 1999, for this theme.) Idealism in America was constitutive, whereas idealism in Europe easily seemed compensatory. American Christianity isn’t basically protest-ant, rather congre-gational, unitarian, ecumenical, and evangelical. Even Emerson’s Transcend-entalism (later so inspiring to Nietzsche) was secular. European Christianity remains easily overwhelmed by Catholic/Protestant conflict (and now: Christian/ Islamic conflict), which is unusual in contemporary America.

So, no wonder that striving to balance idealism and realism—pragmatism, in a phrase—would be an American conception (later imported by Europe). Multi-ethnicity of sensibility is intrinsic to the American conception of humanity; and
to literary sensibility in the humanities (I would argue). American humanism is integrally trans-ethnic.

That’s evident for Thomas Alexander, whose Deweyian Human Eros: eco-ontology and the aesthetics of existence, strives to synethesize American thought of the past century in notions highly suggestive of my notion of AEros (referenced earlier), though he doesn’t think of a notion of ecogeny, which is rather exactly what he’s prospecting as an existential aesthetic.

[aside, March 2019: The history of humanism—from classical Greek aspiration, through the Jesus movement (which is pre-Christian), then various European renaissances of humanism (Italian, Dutch, English), and Romanticisms—leads to the especially American landscape of especially globalist humanity, idealizing a pluralism of united nations (trans-nationlism) beyond the homogenizing (“universalist”) European conception of formalized “cosmopoly” (still celebrated by EU intellectuals in Kantian terms) that evidently can’t prevent resurgent nationalisms at governmental levels, not having resourcefulness enough to appropriate differences in an appealing trans-ethnic humanity. (Trumpism, by the way, is a lame TV show highly constrained by Constitutional inertia and the Deep State of devoted careerists, in my view. It is American greatness that keeps The Donald in his MAGA amusement park.)]

The Point of humanism, in a phrase, is the cultivation of humanity, standardly now through university humanities, which must not be regarded as supplemental to preparing students for corporate techumanity, but as the centrifugal axis of what good society is. Indeed, as The Life of Imagination will emphasize (I’m still writing only re: the publisher description), we need “transformative thinking that shows how imagination will be essential in cultivating a future conducive to human flourishing and to that of the life around us.” (It’s comments like that which cause me to imagine I’m going to meet my sister I’ve always wanted—an archetropal dimension of my life that hasn’t lost its sense of humor about that.)

An AEros of American humanity may well be the aspiration of wholly flourishive life (in light of the evolution of “positive psychology,” a very American school, child of humanistic psychology) to stand for and contribute to ecologically flourishive humanity. It is, ideally, passionate attachment (engagement with, devotion to)
the appeal of being—which we saw this week, coincidently (March 15), by teens the world over vocally walking out of their classes for the sake of the Earth (well, for the sake of fear for their lives). Teachers want—should want—to draw such passion into an “existential aesthetic” of value (Alexander’s Deweyan sense of “eros,” by the way) that bonds selfidentity with Our evolving.

Such an educational mission melds (a) intrinsic interest in enhancing self under-standing for advancing fruitfulness of one’s ownmost life; and (b) a spirit of being in Time whose selfidentity is mirrored by caring for the future of Earth. (So long ago it is now that Berkeley’s Theodore Roszak wrote Person/Planet, 1982. I can trace my own engagement with prospecting an ecological humanity back to the mid-1970s, in explicit involvements that are fun to remember, even prior to interest in Habermas and cultivating humanity.)

This kind of sentiment is implicitly expressed by my attraction to a new philology as conceptual design for humanistic curriculum (though I’m not explicit about the systemic dimension there—not bridging to here). I easily become enthralled with notions of high cultural humanism prevailing in conceptions of global humanity.

Yet, like fine pointillisms, an art of cultivating humanity is ultimately person by person, person-al in interpersonal engagements, where we need creativity for innovation—the higher, the better: cultivation of humanistic singularity that may exemplify the Project of Humanity admirably, even contribute to the goodG of The Order lastingly (“demic efficacy”).

The humanities don’t just belong in general curriculum. They belong to engineer-ing, etc. Advancing community involves systems innovations for cultural leader-ship of techumanity. It’s easy to see good trends toward this, but that must be instituted as normative.

Humanistic value must be integral to K-12 curriculum integration. Society must provide enough time for good enough, competent parenting, premised on planned parenthood (in light of economic security, not coping with happenstance).

Mental health deserves intelligent job design, where “human factors” engineering is truly humanistic.

The culture of prosperity must recognize that one cannot benefit personally from having multi-millions of dollars, if the Point of being isn’t manifold obesity of so many things.

Only excellence in government will attract and support the taxation level neces-sary for goodG society.

Only broad-based social valuing of educational excellence as highly-esteemed profession will attract talent to teaching that is effectively supported by excellent school systems.

The humanism of Our humanity originates the appeal of the good_ life that causes and sustains goodG society.

 

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  Be fair. © 2019, gary e. davis