The Mechanical Bride 3
Discontinuity is in different ways a basic concept both of quantum and relativity physics. It is the way in which a Toynbee looks at civilizations, or a Margaret Mead at human cultures. Notoriously, it is the visual technique of a Picasso, the literary technique of James Joyce. (…) Quantum and relativity physics (…) have provided new facts about the world, new intelligibility, new insights into the universal fabric. Practically speaking, they mean that henceforth this planet is a single city. Far from making for irrationalism, these discoveries make irrationalism intolerable for the intelligent person. They demand much greater exertions of intelligence and a much higher level of personal and social integrity than have existed previously. In the same way, the technique of Toynbee makes all civilizations contemporary with our own. The past is made immediately available as a working model for present political experiment. Margaret Mead’s Male and Female illustrates a similar method. The cultural patterns of several societies, quite unrelated to one another or to our own, are abruptly overlayered in cubist or Picasso style to provide a greatly enriched image of human potentialities.
The Mechanical Bride 22
the dream of relativity physics is not of centralism but of pluralism. It is not centralist but distributist in the matter of power and control. And to see this new vision at work side by side with the old one is to permit the reformer a sure method of diagnosis and therapeutic suggestion. It permits the reformer to co-operate with the same forces that have produced the disease, in order to point the way to health.