Norman Cousins On The Future Of Print & The Role Of Magazines, Circa 1972… A Mr. Magazine™ Blast From The Past…

June 22, 2019

“Print will continue to be a primary force in the life of the mind”…Norman Cousins

Happy birthday Mr. Cousins.

Norman Cousins was born June 24, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey and he died in 1990. He was a longtime editor of the Saturday Review, global peacemaker, receiver of hundreds of awards including the UN Peace Medal and nearly 50 honorary doctorate degrees.

In 1972, Cousins resigned from Saturday Review and founded World Magazine, which called itself “a review of ideas, the arts and the human condition.”

In this Blast From the Past, read about the future of print and the role of magazines circa 1972. Once again, there is nothing new under the sun. The wisdom of 1972 still rings true today. Please enjoy this excerpt from literary giant, Norman Cousins, introducing his new magazine. And Mr. Magazine™ would love to hear your comments…

World 7/4/72


Volume 1, Number 1.

This first issue of World Magazine is dedicated to the future of print, and to our colleagues on other magazines, newspapers, and books. We are confident that print will not only endure but will continue to be a primary force in the life of the mind. Nothing yet invented meets the intellectual needs of the human brain so fully as print. The ability of the mind to convert little markings on paper into meaning is one of the ways civilization receives its basic energy.

What is most important about a new magazine is not how it came to be but what it seeks to become. World seeks to become a magazine on the human situation. In philosophy, editorial content, and direction, it seeks to become a journal of creative world thought and activity.

The compression of the whole of humanity into a single geographic arena is the single event of the contemporary era. The central question of that arena is whether the world will become a community or a wasteland, a single habitat or a single battlefield. More and more, the choice for the world’s people is between becoming world warriors or world citizens.

Perhaps the starkest discovery of our time is that our planet is not indestructible and that its ability to sustain life is not limitless. For the first time in history, therefore, the physical condition of the planet Earth forces itself upon human intelligence. And the management of the earth for the human good now becomes not just a philosophical abstraction but an operational necessity.

For many centuries, people have known that life on this planet is possible only because millions upon millions of factors are in precise and delicate balance. Never before have those vital balances been in jeopardy. Life is now imperiled not because of any failure of the cosmic design but because of human intervention.

All at once a new and larger kind of wisdom is needed to keep humankind from becoming inimical to its own survival. Wisdom that can deal with basic causes of breakdowns between the national aggregations. Wisdom that can halt the poisoning of the natural environment and that can monitor the world’s airshed and waters. Wisdom that can establish a balance between resources and needs. Wisdom that can apply technology to the upgrading of the whole f human society. And, finally, wisdom that can help men regain their essential trust in one another, and restore their sensitivities to life. It is folly to expect that genuine creativity-whether in the individual or society-can exist in the absence of highly developed sensitivities.

World Magazine, therefore, is devoted to ideas and the arts. One may make a distinction between the two, but one cannot separate the two. Both are part of the same creative process. Survival is impossible without ideas, but the arts give sense and excitement to survival.

The ultimate adventure on earth is the adventure of ideas. Word Magazine would like to be part of that adventure. The times favor new ideas. Old dogmas and ideologies are losing their power to inspire or terrify. They are no longer prime sources of intellectual energy and have become instead traditional enduring symbols, objects of generalized attachments and loyalties. Compartmentalized man is giving away to World Man. The banner commanding the greatest attention has human unity stamped upon it…

…It is apparent not just from the authorship of the various columns and departments but from the names on the masthead that most of the editors and contributors share a common editorial background. Yet it is equally clear that they come together now in a new and different context. World Magazine is proud of its origins and especially of whatever measure of continuity it may be able to give to a certain tradition in publishing. We are excited by the prospect of publishing a magazine with a world purpose.

The editors do not regard this issue as a definitive expression of their ideas about World. For a new magazine is not born fully formed. It has to evolve over a period of time. It is shaped in creative interaction with readers. Its most useful mistakes are made in the open. Our hope is that those mistakes will not be beyond fruitful correction, and that they will not obscure our main aim, which is to publish a magazine that people will read and respect. NC

Editor’s Note: You may have noticed lately that I am not as active on the blog as usual.  Two reasons for that, first, the summer break and second, working on two books, the first on how to launch a magazine and the second on the magazines of the 1950s.

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