Towards Greater Civilization
Since this is my first installment for this project, I would like to begin by creating a clear foundation to build upon. The best way to do this, in my estimate, is to share an accepted definition of the term civilization with you. I have chosen as my source a somewhat aged version (published 1983) of the The American Heritage Dictionary (AHD), Office Edition: primarily because the new dictionaries that I have ordered have not arrived yet. In the AHD, civilization is defined as "1. A human society having an advanced stage of development in the arts and sciences and social, political, and cultural complexity." This is easy enough to understand, but it introduces two questions in my mind. How close to the ideal in this definition are we, and  why must  a civilization have complexity or will simplicity work equally as well?

I believe that the creators of the definition chosen felt that in order to have advanced development in the arts and sciences, the complexity in life must be present. From the lay point of view this is true, but from the point of view of professional artists and scientists it is not necessarily true. In science in particular, simplicity is a modern holy grail in the quests to advance science. Physicists include simplicity in the group of features that make a good new theory, and some share my opinion that simplicity means that you are on the right track and complexity implies that an error may have been made somewhere.

Where are we going then, when we head towards greater civilization? If we chase after the suggested definition will we be going the wrong way? We can at least accept the first part of the definition as a worthwhile goal. We can feel joy and happiness about advancing the arts and sciences and hope that simplicity is the way to do that. Complexity is sometimes a good thing to experience, but I doubt if everyone would want their life to depend upon their ability to master it. It's true too that our lives depend upon civilization.

I conclude by focusing on two words in the definition that are of great importance to the objective in this project: advanced and complexity. Therein lies the food for our thought. The paradox is that complexity slows down advancement. To advance is the sweetness of our mix found at the brim and to be complex is the dregs. We can consider, then, is complexity necessary or even important to civilization?  Why keep it? I think that we will discover and agree that it may have been an unavoidable consequence of advanced development of art and science and we have not yet discovered how to get it to go away. The foundations of our civilization have not yet been fine tuned to the point that we do not find complexity at each new stage of development.

January 1, 2003

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