“Who was that masked catalyst?” This variant on the closing scene of Lone Ranger episodes holds a favorite mystery — the presence and effect of a catalyst.

Not being a chemist presents some difficulties in proceeding. I’m sure that my lay perspective mischaracterizes important considerations and is quite romanticized regarding the arrival, work, and parting of a transformative element.

There are dangers too great to number when taking a physical process and applying it to personal and social relationships. Foremost among them is a difficulty in imagining that the forces at work in beginning and stabilizing a change in relational or social status would remain unchanged.

While we can see the effect of money on changing the perceived status of an individual or group, we can posit that money continues to be money. Stories and studies suggest that outward changes in opportunities or their lack do not cover us, but reveal, whatever basic value system was held before money entered the scene.

The largest effect on persons or groups are perceived as individualized. History books generally go for large characters who have huge success or failure as they jump from war to war. The characteristics of such characters are etched in stone. Their nicknames are indicative of unchangeability.

These flashpoints of capital and leaders are too obvious in their presence to be catalysts for change. They are more a sign-of-a-change than the facilitator of such. Of more interest are the quiet, muffled, hinting folks who trust a different mechanism than straight-forward interference with on-going processes of change. A prophet or saint might be thought of as a living catalyst. Even then, the reports of their lives run well past what can be known, and hagiography enters on elephant feet.

Given their nature, the catalysts in my life may never be identified. Whoever they were—thanks.

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