September 4, 1946
THE BELL NOTES|
A Selected Excerpt
Tonight I saw Henry Fifth --a moving picture. I confess that, in Henry's incognito stroll through the camp on the night before the battle, I saw my own walks among the army working now on the helicopter. Today, for example, starting after lunch, I went to witness testing a Model 42 gimbal ring. It was not ready so I strolled through the shop. I talked to the man who has been drilling the holes in the gear spiders all summer. He now had fixtures and a quicker method. After talking, he said, "Are you from tool design?" But I said not. Then I saw one of the shop foremen, and asked about a 42 experimental part. Then the man making bevel gears. They are coming well. Then a machinist making masts. Then one boring them. Then the big Warner Swaseys on one of which hubs were being machined (he told me he's made two hundred already without changing tool bits), then some conversation with the second Warner Swasey operator making blade grips-eight minutes each [and so on; my notes list thirty items and the next day, fifty].
During the day Model 83, the secret jet airplane (25,000 pounds gross weight, cost about $2oo per pound), crashed, making a twenty-five-foot hole in the ground. The airport alarm went off, causing everyone to rush out to wait for the crash, which, however, occurred some miles away, despite a waiting line of fire trucks, ambulances, etc., at the airport. The ship crashed on a farm and the explosion blew the farmer off his tractor, and it was said he was still shaking when they interviewed him. The pilot was
Prakrili --fundamental substance out of which the world evolves. Is it protoplasm?
There appear to be many schools of Hindu philosophy differing widely from each other. They suffer from a dearth of actual "ideas"; they seem fruitless. The contributions of positive science loom very large against this wordiness and intellection. However wrong science may be, for pure invention it deserves a high place. This invention which rises as far above the statue of man as a skyscraper above a thatched hut, creates a rich lore, a mythology of its own. It creates the microscope and its world, the telescope and astronomy, organic chemistry, etc. This culture in the West, while it outstrips the mind and leaves it a poor relation, does not exclude the growth of mind far beyond its primitive proportions, for it offers an expanded dimension in which to grow. This growth may never occur but it is tempting, indeed obligatory, to think that the mind should now strive to grasp, digest, and make into mental substance this prodigious orphan, monster if you will, it has created.
Viewed broadly, the essential clue to the tremendous growth of Western science, which is not just science, but its application, is the creation of a small gadget. This gadget is the link which ties the work of one individual into that of another. In the East, which has no such gadget, the greatest works were works of individuals, which remained like giant boulders on the plane of time. But here man has somehow learned to build on the building stones laid by his predecessors; he has learned to use the work of others, though admittedly he does not understand and has gained no intrinsic mental power beyond that of the primitive creature who started it all. He has either coordinated the delusion of his forebears, or has unearthed a shape whose reality is attested to by the fact of its continued stability after successive additions of many larger building stones.
For example, the early chemists identified certain elemental constituents or atoms. A next generation found the atoms could be arranged into a regular table of elements; it seemed as though each element had a unit weight which was a multiple of the first of the series, hydrogen, despite the fact that there were exceptions and discrepancies. The next generation found the reason for these discrepancies, set up the table, and showed the absolute correctness of the initial assumption when the whole story was known. Thus was built either a fantasy of momentous proportions, a fantasy to the third power, or man was dealing with reality (though admittedly he never saw what he was dealing with).
The mental gymnastics of Socrates and many redefines of the nature of reality seem childish alongside of this accomplishment.
And the above is only one street in the city of modern science. There are hundreds like it --electromagnetic waves for example. A kind of entity was invented which not only did much to explain the long-familiar light and heat, and the newly discovered Hertz waves, but a place was made for many more undiscovered kinds of radiation. If this is a dream, it doesn't matter about reality.
Lord knows I am against scientists, and science to some extent; but as fiction, the contributions of science loom very large.
Perhaps I should consider the point already won; there is no need to reiterate it. Then again, that's not the point here. Two brothers set forth in opposite directions to find the secret of life. One was humble and looked where his vanity told him it was not, in the mud, in putrid meat, in diseased animals, in vulgar mechanic arts; the other was proud-looked within his own temple, found little. They come together at last; the first now is rich and proud, the second poor and humbled, but still neither has the secret. Maybe the second should recognize the findings of the first, and the first should not forget that it was his humility that brought him where he is.
(c)1979 Anodos Foundation