“Eyes of Flesh, Eyes of Fire” Chapter VIII of Theodore Rosack’s The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition has a wonderful piece of rhetoric that employs the commonplace of not seeing the forest for the trees. It’s a rift that pits attention to detail against the whole view and for this reason ultimately fails to convince.
And, after a fashion, we do learn things by treating the world objectively. We learn what one learns by scrutinizing the trees and ignoring the forest, by scrutinizing the cells and ignoring the organism, by scrutinizing the detailed minutiae of experience and ignoring the whole that gives the constituent parts their greater meaning. In this way we become ever more learnedly stupid. Our experience dissolves into a congeries of isolated puzzles, loosing its overall grandeur. We accumulate knowledge like the miser who interprets wealth as maniacal acquisition plus tenacious position; but we bankrupt our capacity to be wonder struck … perhaps even to survive. [ellipsis in original]
The miser figure rings true but the passage fails to persuasively link accumulation with attention to detail. A tadpole can be as amazing as a whole wetland.
And so for day 211