In time ideas would begin to cross boundaries. Rebellious thinkers, unheeded in their own groups, would look anywhere for allies whom they could persuade to believe the latest transfigurations of the solution. They would set tradition or progress itself as a premise, hoping that minds primed by initial agreement would be willing to follow the rest of their argument. But of the two, progress would prove the more successful, because those attached to tradition would be less willing by definition to abandon their idolized explanations. The followers of progress, by obvious contrast, would be on the lookout always for the change that would represent a validating improvement. In this environment a clever notion would take seed. It would say that all perspectives on the question were equally sound, and that the strife and suffering caused by the competition among them ought to cease. The word “tolerance” would come to epitomize this, the final solution. All other solutions, though equal to one another, would be subordinated to it. Institutions of learning would raise this new idea as their standard and would grant to their researchers and teachers the license to pursue their respective disciplines enthusiastically, in the name of the progress of knowledge, provided they did not threaten the standard itself. The young would be educated to become believers, and believers would be numbered among the informed and enlightened. They would tolerate and forgive the intellectually simple who persisted in holding one of the other solutions above theirs, but they would insist upon laws that would keep these others in check. As their confidence grew, they would get more aggressive in their legislation, and the ever-widening circles of their influence and coercion would lead them to imagine that the universal agreement, which once seemed impossibly out of reach, was now on the horizon.
And then one fine morning, a pure fool would come along and say, “Has anybody noticed that the original search was for something that didn’t exist?”