In a binary way of seeing, the world is comprehended in pairs of “either/or”. William Blake, in a letter to his friend Thomas Butt, identified this way of seeing as the approach of reductionist science, or what he famously called “Single vision & Newton’s sleep”. On this view, movement — both inner and outer — is accounted for in the logic of cause and effect, and indeed, purely physical events, like a rock falling to earth, can be adequately described by the laws of causality or “if/then”. (Even Albert Einstein, with his theory of relativity, would agree that the earth is more the cause of attracting a falling rock than the rock would be the cause of attracting a rising earth.)
As of this decade, every child enrolled in an American educational institution — from early childhood programs through high school — entered life on earth sometime after the U.S. was shaken by an attack of four hijacked commercial jets during the clear mid-morning of 11 September 2001. We have yet to weigh the full measure of consequence wrought on young souls by this assault, the only major foreign attack on civilian home targets this country has experienced in close on two centuries. Yet we can already say this much: children born in this country since that date, though they may have come “trailing clouds of glory”, are growing up in a culture much more conscious of security, much more concerned about germs and allergies, and much more restrictive in what teachers — parents, too — are allowed to risk with the youngsters in their care.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was the poet and scientist who perhaps offered the closest thing to a protocol for cultivating what in an earlier essay I have called mobile tri-une thinking. To be sure, he was not a systematic writer, and the four steps that follow are not to be found anywhere in his rambling body of work.