January 22, 2014

Combinatorial creativity, Ctd Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln delivered the famous The House Divided Speech  on June 16, 1858. In that speech he said:
"A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South."
Captain Terence O'Neill said in 'Ulster at Cross Roads', December 9 1968:
"I could not see how an Ulster divided against itself could hope to stand." 
This epigram did not spring from nowhere or was it simply clutched from the air. This was the product of the collective readings and experience of Lincoln.

 "Big ideas come from the unconscious... But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process... Suddenly, if the telephone line from your unconscious is open, a big idea wells up within you." 
It's also the collective interactions of many minds across the ages. For as Virgina Woolf said, Via Maria Popova here:
"I think I see for a moment how our minds are threaded together — how any live mind is of the very same stuff as Plato’s & Euripides. It is only a continuation & development of the same thing. It is this common mind that binds the whole world together; & all the world is mind."
From Wikipedia here, we know that the term "house divided" echoed throughout the centuries in various forms. Citing Wikipedia:
"Lincoln was referring to the division of the country between slave and free states. The "house divided" phrase had been used by others before, and by Lincoln himself in another context in 1843. Most famously, eight years before Lincoln's speech, during the Senate debate on the Compromise of 1850, Sam Houston had proclaimed: "A nation divided against itself cannot stand" (Mark 3:24). During the War of 1812 a similar line appeared in a letter from Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren. Mrs. Adams wrote "... A house divided upon itself - and upon that foundation do our enemies build their hopes of subduing us. 
In Thomas Paine's 1776 Common Sense, his description of the composition of Monarchy, "this hath all the distinctions of a house divided against itself..." Thomas Hobbes, in his 1651 Leviathan (Chapter 18), stated that, "a kingdom divided in itself cannot stand."
The quotation "A house divided against itself cannot stand," is taken from Mark 3:25 - "And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand."

My blog post on Aleks Krotoski on combinatorial creativity is here (Krotoski's blogs here, here and here). On the remix culture with Maria Popova and Kirby Ferguson here.

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