Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Last night I finished reading John Steinbeck's 'The Pearl' and I started to read some of his letters. 'The Pearl' is a profound and quite horrifying story. It almost verges into fantasy territory with the number of spirits and 'the family song', these elements crammed in beside the struggle for survival of a Mexican peasant family. I still feel deeply affected by the story and I am still thinking about it. It is different to 'East of Eden' in that one of the main themes has been taken, distilled, and strengthened.

Then I was reading in one of his letters how Steinbeck had this revelation about the nature of society and how there seems to be something that is active outside the individual, something he didn't really understand:

"Note - in Mendocino county a whole community turned against one man and destroyed him although they had taken no harm from him. This will sound meaningless to you unless you could see the hundreds of notes that make them meaningful to me. It is quite easy for the group, acting under stimuli to viciousness, to eliminate the kindly nature of its units. When acting as a group, men do not partake of their ordinary natures at all. The group can change its nature. It can alter the birth rate, diminish the number of its units, control states of mind, alter appearance, physically and spiritually. All of the notations I have made begin to point to an end - That the group is an individual as boundaried, as diagnosable, as dependent on its units and as independent of its units' individual natures, as the human unit, or man, is dependent on his cells and yet is independent of them." June 21 1933

It may take a while to understand this Steinbeck wrote as his thoughts came and left punctuation to other people frequently. I think he is trying to say something about synergy.

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