It has been a commonly held principle by Italian craftsmen that work should be carried out con diligenza, con studio and con amore; that is, with diligence, study and love. In a similar line of thinking, Sir Francis Bacon wrote that some information is meant to be examined with diligence and attention, or ‘swallowed whole,’ while some to be considered and ‘chewed’ over and finally, that some things only need be ‘tasted.’ We seem to have developed a strong penchant for tasting, but perhaps it is time to return to the Italian trifecta of passion, study and diligence to not only consume progress, but effectively question it.
Daniel Pauly, a fisheries scientist, articulated in 1995 a theory he called ‘shifting baseline syndrome’: a form of generational blindness that causes each new crop of people to define normal through their own limited experience of the world, resulting in the acceptance of slipping standards as the general evolution of things. Whether convincing ourselves that there have always been so many cars on the road, that technology is inherently good or that planned obsolescence is an acceptable business practice, Pauly’s theory serves as a reminder that the things we consider to be normal aren’t necessarily so, and are most definitely not above being challenged. There is a great need for perspective, across generations, to prevent being misled by red herrings.
Meanwhile, data is getting ‘bigger,’ supposedly signaling our entry into a golden age of profound knowledge. However, I often consider, and am concerned, that it may only cause a gravely insidious problem: for sterile information is not a replacement for thoughtful understanding. Forgetting this, we may find ourselves filled with misplaced worries, concerned with the inconsequential while the significant passes by unaddressed. Data is a mirage of wisdom, lacking human diligence and consideration. It is studying history, not data, that makes men wise.
And so, The Alpine Review Returns, anchored in the belief that our contemporary existence, filled with flashy distractions, requires a full examination; a collision of varied experiences and disciplines which cannot be achieved by singular and contemporary observation alone. Some ideas are indeed novel, but behind every step forward is a long and winding path of history that has brought it to where it is now. Times change, principles endure. For that reason, it’s worthwhile to be diligent, to look back, return to the point of departure, reunite with our principles, repair our understanding and forge an enlightened path forward.
Louis-Jacques Darveau, summer 2013