Saturday, September 3, 2011

Loren Eiseley: from The Immense Journey

Loren Eiseley: Sept. 3, 1911--July 9, 1977

I have read many works in which the author discussed or lamented what is variously called the human predicament, the human situation, or the human condition, and usually treated from an existential or a moral or a theological or even a literary point of view. Below, Loren Eiseley writes about the human predicament, but from a slightly different perspective--a sociobiological perspective perhaps or maybe even an epistemological perspective. What would you call it?

We are now in a position to see the wonder and terror of the human predicament: man is totally dependent on society. Creature of dream, he has created an invisible world of ideas, beliefs, habits, and customs which buttress him about and replace for him the precise instincts of the lower creatures. In this invisible universe he takes refuge, but just as instinct may fail an animal under some shift of environmental conditions, so man's cultural beliefs may prove inadequate to meet a new situation, or, at an individual level, the confused mind may substitute by some terrible alchemy, cruelty for love.

As another author once said, we live in a virtual world, for we have given up the real or natural world for a world of ideas. We don't interact with things, but with the ideas of things. Eiseley also differs from other writers in that, while others see humans as victims of an uncaring universe or deity or fate, he suggests that we have created our own predicament, and we may be victims, but we are also the perpetrators of our situation.


  1. I see Eiseley's approach as that of an anthropologist.
    Now there is another layer of intervention to peel away: our complete dependency on the corporate world to provide for us. We have lost our skills, the autonomy to make what we need.

  2. Anonymous,

    No argument there.

    We are totally dependent upon the transportation and communication networks, both of which are controlled by the corporations.