I was reading through my blog roll and found that some scientists think that "the notion of beauty is ossified" (source). I suppose it is refreshing that we are still questionning whether beauty reigns - and by beauty, we are to think of παιδεία or καλὸς κἀγαθός, where virtue and a beauty that referred to the measure of being were paramount. We are to think of the golden mean.
A century ago, Maxwell himself reflected on singularities and instabilities vs. continuities and stabilities, and wrote that "singular points are by their very nature isolated, and form no appreciable fraction of the continuous course of our existence." He showed how predictions may be made in the case of those without character, who predictably adopt crowd mentality, and those with character, who may be relied upon. Our problem in understanding this today may have to do with having fewer "people of character" which is a point I will return to.
But first, lest one think Maxwell did not understand the finesses of human finickiness: "the little word which sets the world a fighting, the little scruple which prevents a man from doing his will, the little spore which blights all the potatoes, the little gemmule which makes us philosophers or idiots. Every existence above a certain rank has its singular points: the higher the rank, the more of them. At these points, influences whose physical magnitude is too small to be taken account of by a finite being, may produce results of the greatest importance." I am sure we can all testify to that "one little thing" that led to great change in our lives.
Maxwell understood this, but concludes that the bigger picture outweighs the idiosyncrasies in life. And I will now say that the only kind of person who can understand this idea is the one "of character" who does not bend to every minor circumstance.
The other article I read was of what I will call promiscuity in Yale students (source) which to my skimmed understanding defended the non-judgemental lax morals of students as a myth, because most students - though many are promiscuous, are cynical about promiscuity ("They've all either seen the dark side of that culture or been burned by it themselves"). Why should one have to go through that right of passage? This is our prize for being "liberated". The other prize, that the author is critical of, is the belief that marriage should be postponed. But the author, through her own admission, belonged to the "conservative underground", so may not have experienced all that might be worthy of further critique.
The "person of character", when presented with all options, can abstain. It is hypocritically easy to write that sentence (hence the blog post title). I think our age is slightly ruined in terms of morals. I think the imagination has been "burned" - not so much by compromising situations, but by the inability to imagine constants through an inability to live up to them. To translate: it is easier to play tit for tat than it is to turn the other cheek; it is easier to go with the flow than to stand up for one's mores of choice (why "conservative underground"?); it is easier to tow the party line than to stand out like a sore thumb, and take the blows of resistance.
The "people of character" I know from the generation I keep writing about that is now leaving us were even constant in their flaws. Which is not to say that it is a model to be emulated, but rather that consistency is a virtue that one can see less of today. Things look chaotic, because we are beginning all over again.
And again I am led back to Lao Tzu's (18): "When the great Tao is forgotten, Kindness and morality arise. When wisdom and intelligence are born, The great pretence begins. When there is no peace within the family, Filial piety and devotion arise. When the country is confused and in chaos, Loyal ministers appear." Whatever is lost begins anew, of its own accord.