Infinite Plasticity

“Only here, in America, were the common folk of the Old World given a chance to show what they could do on their own, without a master to push and order them about. History contrived an earth-shaking joke when it lifted by the nape of the neck lowly peasants, shopkeepers, laborers, paupers, jailbirds, and drunks from the midst of Europe, dumped them on a vast, virgin continent and said: “Go to it; it is yours!”

“And the lowly were not awed by the magnitude of the task. A hunger for action, pent up for centuries, found an outlet. They went into it with ax, pick, shovel, plow, and rifle; on foot, on horse, in wagons, and on flatboats. They went into it praying, howling, singing, brawling, drinking, and fighting. Make way for the people! This is how I read the statement that this country was built by hordes of undesirables from the Old World.

“Small wonder that we in this country have a deeply ingrained faith in human regeneration. We believe that, given a chance, even the degraded and the apparently worthless are capable of constructive work and great deeds. It is a faith founded on experience, not on some idealistic theory. And no matter what some anthropologists, sociologists, and geneticists may tell us, we shall go on believing that man, unlike other forms of live, is not a captive of his past — of his heredity and habits — but is possessed of infinite plasticity, and his potentialities for good and for evil are never wholly exhausted.” – Eric Hoffer, The Ordeal of Change

The “undesirables” that built what would become the USA, were very aware of their new found freedom having been “acted upon” for centuries. If we can help anyone awake to their true identity it will be worth every effort. We should cheer each other onward, for every micro-step that leads towards greater self-efficacy is a victory! In the messiness of this mortal existence it’s easy to lose sight of this and focus on the messiness, but through the messiness, new life is born.

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