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Doug's Pre-review Comments
- for his
Several Robert M. Pirsig and William James Sidis-relevant comments
appear in this pre-review commentary.
Our pending review of William James Sidis' The Animate and
the Inanimate (AIA) mandates this review. Our goal is to "get
inside Boris Sidis' head," and thus to enhance our inferential
capabilities interpreting what WJS means in AIA.
Our library of Sidis works continues to grow. Eventually, we
will review those for you here in Quantonics.
Usually we start review comments with a big positive feeling,
but this review is starkly different from those we have done for
Quantonics over its past 4-5 years. Boris' book, while informative
and useful to parents and academics (those striving for change),
and education bureaucrats (who are or want to be agents of change),
is filled with anger and much retribution.
Too, you may not side with our view: we share many of
Boris' concerns. (We see USA's public education system as failing
and in crisis. Boris predicted and anticipated what we are seeing
today. Doug just heard yesterday 8May2000 that a secondary school
system, from which he graduated 40 years ago, will only graduate
40% of its seniors from its year 2000 class! 60% failed basic
competency evaluations! Heads up folks! Pay attention to what
Boris is saying!)
You will find, when you read our review of Boris Sidis' Philistine
and Genius that he is angry, very angry and very visceral.
For detail, you should read Amy Wallace's superb book, The
Prodigy. But more briefly, we can give you a few clues.
Why? Why is Boris so angry? Why is he so visceral?
We conclude some of these
issues contribute (Amy Wallace documents countless others.):
- Boris' experience with Russian anti-Semitic pogroms during
his late teens and early twenties.
- See Amy Wallace's, The
Prodigy, Chapter 1.
- Amy sets a tenor of possible outcomes for Boris:
"At the time of Boris' birth , Russia was under the
severe, autocratic rule of Tsar Nicolas II. The Ukraine, a portion
of southwestern Russia with a population of nearly twenty million,
was part of the Jewish Pale of Settlement, established by Catherine
the Great in 1791. Nearly two million Jews inhabited this area,
and few were allowed to move 'beyond the Pale.'
"By the mid-1800s the prevailing attitude of Russians toward
their large Jewish population was intensely hostile. A long history
of persecution made the Jews easy prey for mass hysteria whipped
up by the government; Jewish economic success and land ownership
was a threat to many Russians, who claimed that the Christian
population was being exploited. Rumors circulated that Jews used
the blood of Christian babies in their religious ceremonies.
"In 1881, under the rule of the reactionary Tsar Alexander
III, the wave of hatred broke. The first of a vicious series
of pogroms occurred in southern Russia. Jews were assaulted in
the streets, robbed, raped, and murdered.
"The pogroms spread, and in 1882 the Tsar ordered anti-Jewish
tribunals, ultimately passing the notorious 'temporary' May Laws.
These forbade Jews within the Pale to leave their villages, and
forced multitudes of other Jews into the dense, overcrowded cities.
Existence for the average Jewish family was at best a struggle.
The situation grew increasingly grim, with little hope of improvement.
The Russian authorities were pressing Jews to emigrate, and Jews
were anxious to leave. America was now the promised land."
See page 2, The Prodigy, 1986, Dutton first edition hardbound,
- Boris, against Russian law, at age 16 (~1883), started an
organization to teach peasants to read. At 17, he enrolled in
a 'junior college.' Tsarist police raided Boris' and his friends
workplaces. Boris and 11 friends were arrested. Two were hanged.
Nine were marched barefoot into Siberia. Boris, as leader, was
thrown into a dungeon. He was released once temporarily to wine
and dine him, to extract details of Boris' plot. Boris said there
was no plot and refused to confess to such. He was taken back
to solitary confinement, shackled, and tortured. He spent two
years in a body-sized cell, unable to recline. However, regardless
of his vile conditions, he rose above them, and refused to be
broken. He, instead, learned
to tap 'reserve energy,' and to think and reason well and
dynamically. (Paraphrased from page 3, of Amy's, The Prodigy.)
- Boris' expectations.
- Boris, though told otherwise in Russia, intuited America
as a land of plenty.
- Boris loved books, and when he first entered Boston's Public
Library, his expectations were beyond fulfilled.
- Boris may have expected America to be his ideal land of education
and intellectual development. We infer his initial idealization
of America from his own experiences described by Amy Wallace
and from his own words in Philistine and Genius. Who would
be crazy enough not to love learning, intelligence, intellectual
development, and all their accoutrement? Ancient Greeks loved
wisdom. Ancient Greeks loved philosophy. Would not Americans
too? "Why, it is just impossible to imagine otherwise."
- Boris' and Sarah's rearing of their son, William.James Sidis.
- Followed a method very similar to Montessori.
- Were rigorous.
- Were extraordinarily into change, applied change, and learned
access to reality's 'reserve energy.'
- Drove out repetitive habit.
- Drove out rote memorization.
- Drove out static structure.
- In their son, William, had almost an ideal human genome to
- Boris' disappointments with complex USA social fabric.
- Politics as a social endeavor, not an intellectual endeavor.
- Education as a process of cloning industrial cogs/plug-ins.
- Bureaucracy as a process of enforcing social mores while
denigrating intellectual growth.
- Public fear of displacement via growth of intellectual power.
(Intellectuals hated as a higher caste system.)
- USA's Social value decoupling from Intellect. (Public's classical
inversion of Intellect-over-Social natural interrelationships.)
Probably, we have missed much in our numbered lists of considerations
of why Boris was so visceral in his writing of Philistine and
Genius. Regardless, media, bureaucratic, and institutional
social engineers abused him and his family mercilessly for decades.
We admire his will to be noble, and to fight against these mindless
nitwit social clones, these hive-drones of exclusive social status-quo.
Bravo Boris! Not too soon will these social Sisypheans be evolved
out of humanity's intellectual progress.
We found a major alignment of Boris' views with Robert M. Pirsig's
new philosophy, his Metaphysics of Quality. Boris claims, "...the
true education of life is the recognition of evil wherever it
is met." page 38, "Open the eyes of your children
so that they shall see, understand and face courageously the evils
of life." page 66, and "We must guard the child
against all evil fears, superstitions, prejudices and credulity."
pages 91-2. Boris sees evil as genius' greatest threat. What does
he say is evil? Amazingly, just as does Pirsig, he says stasis
is evil. Also he declares fear is evil. What is their antidote?
Boris' reserve energy!
Now, how do good, evil and reserve energy align with
Boris Sidis view:
habit and thought stasis
change via reserve energy
Pirsig's MoQ view:
exclusive static quality
absolute dynamic quality
Here, reader, we think you may benefit by hearing our words
of recommendation again: Both Sidis and Pirsig are saying
"Flux is crux!" Better, they tell us absolute dynamic
energy is real, and we can tap
into it! They offer implicit intellectual guidance for child-rearing.
Two key ingredients are lots of change, and learning how to tap
into dynamic quality. How do we tap into DQ? By choice. Choose
change over stasis! This is what Pirsig meant when he said children
intuit DQ. They already do it. They are born doing it. But society
sees its role as teaching them not to do it. Society teaches
children exclusive static quality. Society sees itself classically
as above intellect and dominant over intellect. This is what Boris
Sidis rails against in his book, Philistine and Genius.
As a result of our local Quantonic distillation of Boris' book
we felt obliged to express our opinions about what our country
should do to resolve some of these difficult educational and institutional
issues. We take our queue from one of Robert M. Pirsig's most
intuitive memes paraphrased, "We cannot ride a motorcycle
either intuitively or intellectually. If we do,
we will crash. To prevent crashing our motorcycle, we must ride
it ('...by becoming more and more in contact with the formless
Dynamic Quality...' see Pirsig
letter to Renselle dated 24Jan1996) by unifying both
Dynamic Quality intuition and our Static Quality intellect!"
He is saying we need a quantum both/and, not a classical either/or
solution to riding a motorcycle safely.
When we juxtapose Boris' effort in Philistine and Genius,
we come to a similar conclusion. We come to a similar conclusion,
especially when we consider many interrelationships among:
Boris Sidis, William James Sidis, Amy Wallace, Henri Louis Bergson,
William James, Robert M. Pirsig, Clifford Geertz, Thomas Kuhn,
Henri Poincaré, Mae-wan Ho, Irving Stein, quantum science,
our own predilections, etc.
Given Pirsig's queue and input from all those other interrelationships,
- While classical cultural either/or battles continue,
- monism versus pluralism, and
- homogeneous thing-king versus heterogeneous think-king,
- society versus intellect,
- we should learn to gradually quantum-harmonize natural, quantal
- admix both monist and pluralist views, e.g.,
- both group 'nominal' children homogeneously (one large
group); and group 'special' children heterogeneously (many
small, laned groups), and
- both socialize 'normal' children; and selectively/uniquely
nurture 'special' children.
Read our review and consider whether you agree with our conclusions.
Thanks for reading,
To contact Quantonics write to or call:
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Carmel, INdiana 46033-7730
©Quantonics, Inc., 2000-2012
Rev. 26Aug2009 PDR
Created: 9May2000 PDR
(25Jan2001 rev - Change 'roll' to 'role'
in paragraph after Sidis/Pirsig comparison.)
(14Nov2001 rev - Repair review return link.)
(18Feb2002 rev - Add links to HtTIRE. Add link to Pirsig's Jan1996
letter. Add Geertz & Kuhn to name list.)
(30Jul2008 rev - Reformat. Reset legacy red text.)
(26Aug2009 rev - Make page current.)
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