At birth we humans, if left to our own devices, would not survive very long. Perhaps only a day. Much of our upbringing consists of learning to cope with the immediate circumstances we encounter in daily life. Our survival depends on it. Our happiness depends on it. Our effectiveness as human beings depends on it.
These immediate circumstances – the IMMEDIACY — is what this book is all about. It flows from my conviction that immediacy – any immediacy in which we humans find ourselves – has a distinct, identifiable character. That beyond the flux and flow of everyday life, and even beyond the bewildering multiplicity of events and circumstances that come our way, there is an orderliness in every Immediacy. And that orderliness can be identified and understood. This is the challenge I am trying to address in this book.
The book focuses on four dimensions of Immediacy – Transcendence, Constriction, Impinging, and Transformation. While doing so, the book illuminates the seductive appeal of cults and false messiahs; ways in which morality can turn out to sponsor social horrors; a hidden side of our personal careers — to list just a few out of several more issues that get illuminated.
I won’t go into each of the four dimensions of Immediacy. But to give you a taste of one of them, Impinging, let me just say that it grows out of the fact that social structures have the peculiarity that they are not only separate and distinct entities, yet they also INTERPENETRATE one another. This holds for every social structure – be it our family, the place where we work, the religious organization to which we belong, or any one of many other social organizations or institutions that exist in our society. They all interpenetrate one another, and they do so in quite specific ways. I describe that interpenetration as the “Rider phenomenon”, namely, how one context makes an imprint on another context. Here is an illustration:
We all know that in modern marketing, sex is frequently used to sell just about everything, from toothpaste to furniture to cars. It is a case of one sphere of our personal and social existence, such as one’s sexual identity and concerns impinging on quite another sphere, namely the sphere of commercial activity, of buying and selling goods and services that are not part of our sexuality at all. Sex, in the marketing of goods and services, is a silent “Rider” to much commercial activity, where it may act as a catalyst that promotes a particular business transaction.
RIDER is a phenomenon in its own right:
It can be silent (not openly acknowledged) but active, as in the sex rider to commercial activity.
It can be dormant for a period of time but available for full activation later, sometimes quite suddenly. (Examples: Anti-Semitism and other racial and ethnic prejudices and hatreds. These periodically erupt after periods of seeming disappearance.)
It can exist in veiled form, as in America’s anti-Obama racism.
It may flourish; and it may fade into oblivion. Some events, such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor (“Remember Pearl Harbor!”) flourish at some times as very loud and palpable reminders. At other times they fade, and are rarely mentioned.
Here, then, is a set of Rider attributes that have impact on the very nature of Immediacy. This makes them components of a science about Immediacy in our human social existence – which this book tries to generate.