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Online Community Lesson


Can Nature Learn from Art?

          We have heard of the phrase “nature imitating art” in reference to an idea, perhaps first expressed in a book or movie, which then is used by people.  But can nature learn from art?  Learning is different from imitating;  learning might involve deliberation and heretofore-untried solutions.

          Example.  There is a popular television series, “24”, which airs on FOX Monday evenings.  In recent episodes the President of the United States and the Vice President were in a power struggle, because the President had been severely wounded in a terrorist blast and the Vice President had thought him incapable of leading the country.  The struggle was to be decided by the Supreme Court, until the chief of staff caught the Vice President in an illegality and forced him to withdraw from the showdown. 

          There was nothing in those episodes to imitate, but there was something to learn.  When a policy decision has far-reaching implications and ramifications, should that decision ultimately be left up to one person?  In “24” the Vice President was about to launch a nuclear strike against a Middle Eastern country until the President, awakened from a coma by a drug, resumed his office. 

          A far-reaching decision is made not only by the President, but, also, by officials at all levels of government.  Even when a city council decides to spend a million dollars, its decision is far-reaching.  Thus, the question must be asked, “Whenever a far-reaching decision is to be made, how many people are in the decision-making?”  The answer should be, “The more, the better.”           

          Recently, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi headed a delegation to the Middle East.  She was criticized by Vice President Cheney for meddling with American foreign policy.  Admittedly, a country must have a single foreign policy, if for no other reason than to avoid confusion leading to contradictory and crippling applications of the policy.  At the same time, when something as important as America’s relations with millions of people are at issue, should that be left to one person to decide? 

          The “episode” of Speaker Pelosi is related to the point made in the essays “The Eleventh Commandment” and “Is Everyone ‘LOCO’?”  Each of us is overwhelmed with or deprived of information, making it difficult to reach the most prudent decisions.  Involving more people in making a decision would be logical.  In fact, a variation of the Eleventh Commandment would apply:  the more far-reaching a decision, the more people should be involved in making that decision, up to a limit based on practicality, not politics.       

            If you answer the multiple-choice questions below and e-mail to with “Lesson answers” in the subject field, you will be credited toward a “certificate of recognition in community affairs” to be awarded in 2007 by a local nonprofit organization. 

1. The implication of this community lesson is that

(a) we should have a different foreign policy in the Middle East.

(b) the more far-reaching a decision, the more people should be involved in making that decision. 

2. Given the type of democracy and the process of making law in the United States,

(a) involving more people in decision-making will take a long time.

(b) we must content ourselves with trying for a change through a Presidential election.

(c) an immediate alternative is to work through nongovernmental organizations which promote cross-cultural understanding, economic development, and local democracy. 

April 12, 2007































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