Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Forerunners to the Time-Binding Notion (Part II)

A number of decades before Alfred’s birth, the Polish national poet Adam Mickiewicz had called Poland, “the Christ of the Nations.” Jesus, as we know, was a Jew. Poles had lived for hundreds of years in relative harmony among, what became for a time, the largest concentration of Jews in the world. The Jews, the people of Israel, had managed for millennia to preserve an independent social-cultural life and sense of peoplehood under the most trying conditions of oppression and exile from their ancient homeland. Does it take a great leap of imagination to consider that post-partition Poles, interested in preserving their unique culture and sense of nationhood, may have learned something from the example of the Jews in their midst? It would be surprising if Korzybski, who had a major life-long interest, if not obsession, with Jews and Jewish themes, was not affected.

From ancient days, the Jewish tradition had certainly displayed an early recognition of the phenomenon that Korzybski labeled time-binding. An important part of the Jewish tradition had always been its emphasis on the importance of tradition itself. The Hebrew word for tradition, masorah or masoret, originally had referred to a “bond” or “fetter." The obligation for all Jews to study and transmit this tradition l’dor v’dor (from generation to generation) as well as the mechanism for interpreting and applying it to new conditions (Talmudic discourse), remained accepted and important parts of the tradition. Acceptance of this tradition as the birthright of every Jew led to the high literacy rates among Jews compared to other groups.

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