Good ideas are the stuff of inner growth and light. Bad ideas twist and stunt and darken. Either way, ideas race the mind to motion like the motorcyclist’s kick-start.
Every Thursday a journal arrives which I sometimes hesitate to open because of the effect it has on my sedentarily inclined mind. To quote the preamble, MANAS is “. . . a journal of independent inquiry, concerned with study of the principles which move world society on its present course, and with search for contrasting principles that may be capable of supporting intelligent idealism under the conditions of life in the twentieth century.” Principles which move world society — one has a vision of a Victorian era magazine explaining the workings of Mr. Edison’s electric light to a well conversed sitting room audience. What we get is anything but a Scientific American treatment of the world. The following is from an essay on education:
We could say that we need to develop some science on the basis of which people will find it natural to act as humans, not only as specialists. But this sort of science would not be a sure thing, not at all like the science we have learned to accept. The trouble is, the science we are used to has become an instrument of self-destruction. We don’t know how to control it. It does all the controlling. The technological institutions made possible by science have become self-guided by technical imperatives, and people have come to think that their lives and future depend upon meeting those requirements.
Another issue featured Scott and Helen Nearing, well known authors and New England homesteaders:
Today the thoughtful members of the younger generation are discovering that the Nearings have given fifty years to working out the means and ends of one kind of good human life — the kind that more and more people are now longing for. Their how-to books are not just how-to books, they have a transcendental dimension which readers sense within the down-to-earth contents. This combination of the visionary with the practical, the moral with the imaginative, the Spartan with the Athenian, the close-to-the-soil Yankee with citizenship in the whole world — how could it fail to achieve legendary significance?
The topics MANAS takes up are not popular ones and not given to creating a large circulation. However, MANAS has been talking about people like the Nearings, Schumacher, Gandhi, Roszack, Goodman and their ideas for more than thirty years. It is not surprising to read about these people today in the likes of CoEvolution Quarterly and Rain, but consider trying to find a periodical in the Eisenhower years with essays on Gandhian education or “Silent Revolution”. We don’t know the editors or authors because the articles and essays are unsigned. This is done “to present ideas and viewpoints, not personalities.” MANAS is written with the perspective of people who were leading alternative lives before the word “alternative” was used to describe a style of life.
MANAS is strictly for the mind; it offers nothing for the eye. It is a standard eight pages with three standard headpieces. The three graphics look like they were used in the first issue of MANAS thirty years ago. There is no other artwork. Each issue features a central essay which is then discussed in the editorial section. Old and new books, usually non-fiction, are covered in Review. Children and Ourselves talks about inner-development, education and society. Paul Goodman, a man with some unusual ideas about education, is a favorite topic. Current events and progress, or regress, are recognized and vocalized in Frontiers.
MANAS is idealistic. A recent issue provided a guiding principle for any periodical:
One has to ask: Can the human race do without utopian visions? Because dreams are or seem unattainable, should people stop dreaming? Should we edit all the stories and legends of great heroes out of our literature? Should we abolish the Olympic game because only a few people can run that fast or jump so high or swim so well? And if, by talent, insight, and perseverance there are individuals who manage to do what they set out to do with extraordinary success, shouldn’t we tell one another about it? If Pavlova was still dancing, would you refuse to take some spindly-legged little girl to see her, because she will never be able to move like that?
Rather than telling us how to live, MANAS gives us the reasons for living.
Sample copies of MANAS will be sent without charge. A one year subscription, 44 issues, costs $10. Write to: MANAS Publishing Co., P.O. Box 32112, El Sereno Station, Los Angeles, CA 90032.