by Seattle Jon (bio)
Wallace Stegner was an American historian, novelist, short story writer, and environmentalist, often called "The Dean of Western Writers." He was also a fervent Mormon booster, writing two affectionate books (Mormon Country
and The Gathering of Zion) about the Mormons, primarily inspired by the friendship he experienced as a non-Mormon growing up in Salt Lake City. The quotes below are from The Big Rock Candy Mountain, a book I recently started and finished on the beaches of Mexico.
"People, he had said, were always being looked at as points, and they ought to be looked at as lines. There weren't any points, it was false to assume that a person ever was anything. He was always becoming something, always changing, always continuous and moving, like the wiggly line on a machine used to measure earthquake shocks. He was always what he was in the beginning, but never quite exactly what he was; he moved along a line dictated by his heritage and his environment, but he was subject to every sort of variation within the narrow limits of his capabilities."
"I suppose that the understanding of any person is an exercise in genealogy. A man is not a static organism to be taken apart and analyzed and classified. A man is movement, motion, a continuum. There is no beginning to him. He runs through his ancestors, and the only beginning is the primal beginning of the single cell in the slime. The proper study of mankind is man, but man is an endless curve on the eternal graph paper, and who can see the whole curve?"