Changing the World vs living with it
Changing the world? Cat, please, these humans don't even live in the real world.
The West in general and its elites in particular, in and out of MSM, government and the military, live in a world increasingly consumed by symbol, spectacle and abstraction. Not only that, but they confuse wish-fulfillment with reality. Decide that you're going to identify as a different gender, race, ethnicity, hell, decide that you're a member of a different species and woe betide anyone who doesn't go along with the charade. They might even get themselves "cancelled".
Hell, even the consequences of their (symbolic) actions are themselves largely symbolic. Melvin didn't get to put on a TED talk because someone dug up an old Tweet of his and now he's "literal Hitler" for a while.
For that matter, the truly Great and Good rarely even face those kinds of consequences. They can cause institutions to fail everywhere they go - but as long as they parrot today's approved platitudes, they glide from internship to government sinecure to think tank to academia to to financial services to corporate board to to consulting gig to MSM Talking Head, sometimes more than one simultaneously. Most probably never having had a 9-5 job, much less done farm or factory work, in their lives. These days, they may never even physically show up to work, ever, but their bank accounts rarely seem to reflect this.
They can even engage in outright fraud, but a big enough fish will only pay a fine, a portion of his ill-gotten gains. Meanwhile, he remains as free as a bird, and probably doesn't even face social ostracism. Last I checked, Jon Corzine is not on the naughty list of the people who matter.
Since results don't matter and there are few consequences for losing, even for catastrophe, everything becomes a matter of spin. All problems can be solved with better P.R., and there is no greater triumph than when some newscaster recites that glib talking point you just coined or when your FB post went viral, your instagram noticed by the right kind of influencer. In other words, winning is a matter of successful symbol manipulation. Speaking of spin, virtue signaling is an obsession, even unto rank hypocrisy, and the Davos Set think nothing of flying a private jet to a conference where they can congratulate themselves on their commitment to stopping climate change. Again, if there are to be any consequences, then those are for the little people to deal with.
Even in their dwindling contact with the physical world, the elites live in a world of wish-fulfillment. Push a button and whatever food or whatever else you want is brought to your door by some peon, paid for seamlessly by some electrons exchanged between banks that may not even have a physical location within a thousand miles of your location, if they have locations at all. You can even get laid via internet, just swipe right on the lucky profile. Everything is taken care of in the background, your credit card billed and airline miles accumulated automatically and the food or the girl just show up. Somehow. By Uber, I guess. Mundane questions like "How do I feed the human kittens this week and pay for school supplies and still make the rent?" never come into the equation.
These are people who confuse their fantasies with reality to the point where they actually believe their own press releases. They give an order and it happens. They proclaim their puppets in Kabul to be wise and stable technocrats, their well-trained military striding from triumph to triumph and So Let It Be Done, So Let It Be Written. "So let it be written" - that's the word, that's all that need be done and the little people just somehow make it happen. For sheer lack of any kind of contact or reference with reality, these people make Louis XVI look like a medieval gong farmer or a pygmy tribesman by comparison.
Contrast the Taliban. Symbol, spectacle and abstraction mean very little to them. Doordash doesn't operate in their area and if a Talib wants a vegan option, he'll have to provide for it himself. It has probably never occurred to a Talib that he could cancel his enemies simply by digging up their old tweets that were innocuous at the time but are now politically incorrect, sent under a long discarded Twitter ID, and he doesn't have time for that, anyway. He lives in the world of concrete and material things, he thinks nothing of killing and in his world, there are bullets waiting to kill him quite literally dead and transport him to a very earthly and very earthy sort of paradise.
You can't wish those things away, your credit cards are no good and probably rifa, anyway, and the bullet flying towards him isn't concerned with word games, his upcoming struggle session to root out unconscious racism and cannot be reasoned with or convinced to bother someone less important.
The world of American elites collided with the world of the Taliban and got its ass kicked. Biden and his crew cannot deal with this, because that kind of reality does not select for success in symbol manipulation, any more than skill at football selects for an ability to do math problems.
The clownish Western response to the COVID is similar. The virus can't be negotiated with, can't be bought off, can't be distracted, and is unimpressed with you and how highly you may think of yourself.
As you may know, I've seen quite a lot of both worlds, I've lived in barns and crouched under the table in the room where the decisions were made, so I think I understand both mindsets pretty well. I prefer freedom to regular meals.
Speaking of, I got some mice to catch, or otherwise, I will surely be going hungry.
One of the most impactful (to me) essays of the past few years on this subject was written by Fr Freeman (an Orthodox priest from Tennessee): https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2020/06/01/the-violence-of-modernity/
I re-read that essay every month or two and it still rings true. It has given me a context to see what’s going on around me, and he even gives some useful rules of thumb on how to live at the end.
It would be wonderful if you could create a Discord channel, or something similar, so fans of your work had a way of connecting with each other. I'm currently hoping to find, or set up, a community that can prepare for the coming collapse, preferably by buying and settling some land in a Northern European locale, and it would be great to find others who are aligned on these values and ideas to help.
One response could be to build lives that transmit values interpersonally, rather than digitally. It'd most likely be in family and local friendship settings, and it'd certainly be at only a small scale in service of rooted, natural-facing community. I'm a Christian, I can't see how it wouldn't rely on a fervent religious belief system, but what do y'all think?
And the second need is the concentrated narrowing of our aims — to give up "changing the world" to instead preserve what little good we have experienced and learned. I'm thinking of the medieval Irish monasteries whose monks copied out texts, hermetic and wholly dedicated, that later generations received long after the medieval age had passed away.
With my partner I farm 70 acres in East Tennessee. For the past 22 years we have produced 100% of our meat and averaged 75% of our vegetables for our own consumption. We also supply a significant amount of meat to approximately 20 families each year. This is not a boast. And it certainly isn’t a claim that others can or should do it. Or, even that it has been the best way to respond to these times.
The reasons are varied for why we moved in 1999 to this place and built this farm. But I’d have to say at this juncture, with all our mistakes, that focusing on stewarding this plot of earth, working with it to be productive, repairing our mistakes, has changed me for the positive. So, my answer to being a better man, more fully human, is to be a good steward of the land and of the animals I husband, and to cultivate my relationships with both kith and kin. This is the path that is working for me.
I am mulling couple of things this week, wondering if they are clues for how God wants me to live...one is a 40-year-old book by a Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama called "Three Mile an Hour God". I've not read it through, but the premise is simple, God's love moves at a very slow pace, about the same pace as Jesus walked through the world, So often, he healed/helped/oved while is was going from one place to the next. No grand plans or programs to change the world.
The second is something Russell Brand referred in one of his recent YouTube spots. He seemed to have a name for it (that I now forgot) - but the idea is to practice and develop a habit of simple disobedience. I work for a nonprofit and I thought about this today as I was updating our GuideStar page, GuideStar being a large platform where nonprofits can share info on their work and receive an Olympics-type rating (Platinum or Gold or Silver or Bronze) based on how "transparent" you share yourself. Today, I found out in order for us to keep our "platinum" status, I would need to provide race/sex/gender data on our two staff and all 18 of our Board members, plus reveal our plan for equity. Eh, I figured to hell with it, gold is not too bad.
This question has been on my mind, and I'm looking forward to reading how people respond. I know many who have accepted the stark reality of our times, but fewer who have found a way to live in them.
Whatever path we choose, I think smallness will be key. I've been making my way through 1 Corinthians, and I am struck by St. Paul's assurance that the wise and powerful will not be able to save the world. Rather, he points to the folly of the cross—a God-man whose greatest victory was in his greatest moment of suffering. "God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong." I believe that.
I have wasted a lot of time trying to figure out ways to combat the machine on its own terms—power with power, wisdom with wisdom. But I think that the narrow path is much more counter-intuitive, like Tolkien's hobbits walking a narrow road to Mordor, beneath the notice of warring kingdoms.
I'm not always sure what that looks like in day-to-day life, but I am experimenting in small ways. I've been trying to pay attention to people who have been brought low by the machine, and to learn to walk with them in love. I've been withdrawing from debates that are too lofty for me, so that I have the energy to fight for good within my own community. And I've been worshiping Jesus every morning. These are humble starts, but I think they matter.
I often wonder what Jesus meant when he talked about the "narrow way" that leads to life. Throughout my life, it usually had to do something with "have the right beliefs about Jesus" or "do the right, ethical things."
Lately I've been wondering if maybe it has something to do with walking as if on a tight-rope: what could be more narrow than that? Your goal is to not fall off into extremes, whether to the left or to the right. There's nothing more easy than to fall into the comfort of an extreme ideology: all your thinking is done for you, all the answers are given, you have a community of stringently like-minded people there to sympathize with you, you have a clearly-marked enemy to battle. When you're trying to stay balanced on the tightrope, you're constantly thinking about your next step, you're careful, you're cautious, all your strength and will is focused on one goal: making it to the end. In order to stay balanced, you have to think through everything yourself, pray through everything yourself, make difficult judgments, search for truth (even if you suspect it's the truth you don't want to be true) and strive to be faithful to God, even if the extremes, both right and left, would prefer you weren't. There's nothing harder than trying to stay on this tightrope in a world that is increasingly polarized and extreme--both on the left and on the right--but I actually think it's really important for the health of one's soul and one's ability to hear the voice of the Spirit in a very loud, loud world.
I'm not saying this is what Jesus meant. BUT, maybe there's a way in which this reading is useful. It's been useful to me recently.
Forgive my continuous reach for Wendell Berry...
However just and anxious I have been,
I will stop and step back
from the crowd of those who may agree
with what I say, and be apart.
There is no earthly promise of life or peace
but where the roots branch and weave
their patient silent passages in the dark;
uprooted, I have been furious without an aim.
I am not bound for any public space,
but for ground of my own
where I have planted vines and orchard trees,
and in the heat of the day climbed up
into the healing shadow of the woods.
Better than any argument is to rise at dawn
and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.
* Care To Evolve?
"The egocentricity experiment with human Design has run its course – its climax is our confluence of crises. Virtually all system solutions and ascension paths proposed by even the most enlightened among us fail to breach egocentricity’s stronghold. The forecast for our imminent extinction is well founded and arguably certain unless we BECOME something new. Metamorphosis is appropriate terminology here. At this Moment in history, ages of humanity can be metaphorically distilled into a litter of newborn kittens, blind from birth, whose eyes are now poised to open onto their world for the very first time….are we ready?
Relieving humanity of egocentricity’s bondage by consensus is impossible. Political proposals are hopelessly impotent. It is now imperative that we develop metamorphic catalysts immediately – means and methods to efficiently transmute egocentricity and profoundly evoke our innate senses of interdependence and compassion This is our evolution."
For myself, I'm just waiting. I'm waiting but for what I'm not quiet sure. Every morning I get up, bathe, dress, drink my coffee and check the weather, drive to work and then read. I read and read and read and then sometimes I run out of things to read so I go talk to coworkers. I then drive home to my kids and wife, help with chores, find out how their day went and we wax elegantly about what we should eat for dinner. We make dinner, eat, the kids watch a few cartoons and I watch the evening news and then we go to bed sure to follow the same pattern the next day.
I'm middle aged now and have positioned my finances such that they need not be changed. I've reached what seems to be a peak in my career. The finances manage themselves and work is hardly ever a challenge. Family life is sometimes chaotic but that's part of the fun. As I type on the keyboard the 2 year old runs into the room and yells "Sharks!!!! Sharks!!! Sharks!!!" She laughs at me and I say, "Sharks!!!! Where?" She runs out and grabs a play stethoscope and checks my heart. I make the sound, "bump bump, bump bump, bump" and she laughs then wants me to check her heart. The world outside goes by and the world inside is filled with the little pitter patter of children laughing and playing. I realize now that I'm not waiting for anything. I'm just enjoying life as it were.
Oh, I don't know how to answer that. As you point out, Paul, don't we have our hands full dealing with our own pathologies? Isn't there already too many voices out there telling us what to do, what to wear, what to eat (or not eat or not eat too much of), or what to drive, how to feel, what to watch or read (or not watch and read), what to think . . .
I mean, sometimes I just think fuck it all.
But then I come back to the struggle.
Yeah, I must keep working on my miserable self. That's a given and will continue until I die, and maybe beyond. And then I ask myself, what can I do to be a good husband? How can I be the kind of mate and partner that is the best for my wife? And, of course, my kids and grandkids. I can't forget them. How can I be the best papa I can be for them? When is it best to keep my mouth shut and just listen to them and not give any advice? Just love them. Let them know I'm here. I see them. How can I avoid the mistakes my own father made? Sometimes, I feel haunted by him. How can I be a good example to my family and friends in the best way possible: by how I live and where I devote my time, energy, and money.
I can't change "the" world, but I like to think I can influence "my" world for the good. And maybe if enough of us do just that, we can make a difference in the big stuff.
No idea! I just live from day to day and accept what comes my way, appreciating that I am having an experience, that the “I”of my existence appeared at a certain time and place of which I had no control over. Also, everything changes, all the time, nothing is ever set in stone and the future is not ours to know (as my grandmother used to say). Not sure that answers the question. James Tunney has some intriguing commentary (YouTube) on our digital dystopian times.
"but a good question to ask of any culture, and of any person, is: what god do you worship?"
I guess cultures/people who do not believe in creator deities or have a need to worship are beyond the pale, and left out of the conversation. In fact, the craving to worship is what gives rise to the Machine/Cathedral (notice how the religious term is repurposed).
"Changing the world. It’s such an astonishing concept: that we have, or could ever have, the agency, ability or knowledge to change the nature of a vast, complex planet we barely understand"
Sentient beings change the world all the time as the Buddha demonstrated (though most often they are unaware of what they are doing).
"With God gone, after all, what else is left to us?"
"The question then becomes: what now?"
The answer that the Buddha gave us 2,600 years ago: take refuge in the Dharma. Nothing beats the truth.
"If/when I fully accept the reality of this time, how am I called to live a faithful, fully human life, here and now?"
Follow the Noble Eightfold Path every moment, and make your awareness of leaving the path, your call to return to it--like those devices they have in cars that alert a driver to when they have drifted out of their lane.
If I were to become a regenerative farmer or a hermit in a cave, I would still be doing it for the machine. Every act seems tainted and doused in a seemingly inescapable egotism. Even in my cave I feel I would somehow be bathing in my righteousness waiting for some film maker to come and make a film about my hipster rejection of society. Maybe the way to live is small, almost invisible? I honestly don’t know - I’m as lost as the next man.