Reclaim the Future
The highest values of Western civilization have become safety and security....
“Death is coming for us all, and the only choice we have to make is how to meet it.”
The ongoing social and political responses to COVID-19 have revealed our modern zeitgeist. The highest values of Western civilization have somehow become safety and security.
We are not safe. We have never been safe and we will never be safe. This is a great truth that is being denied. Death is coming for us all, and the only choice we have to make is how to meet it. This is the great quest of all our philosophies and religions: to deal with the problem of death. It is absurd to think that by avoiding death that we have accomplished anything besides stagnation.
When death was more common, when its existence was accepted because we witnessed it regularly, it forced us to come up with answers, stories to deal with this inevitability. Now that we have made our lives comfortable and keep our elderly at arms length, death is easy to ignore. Combine this with our addiction to entertainment and it is possible to live a life distracted from the need for meaning. Yet, we are unhappier than we have ever been. Our lives lack concrete purpose. We have stopped dreaming of a better tomorrow in the pursuit of the pleasures of now.
Anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses run rampant through our civilization. We are increasingly medicated simply to deal with our lack of purpose. To medicate away the primal screams of our biology. A biology that is rebelling against the meaninglessness of our day to day lives. In an age of anxiety our response is to numb ourselves instead of listening to these signals. Suicide rates among pre-teen girls are at the highest level ever recorded in human history. Meme culture among Generation Z is filled with the consistent refrain that depression is the normal response to existence itself.
Meanwhile, our leaders obsess over the political fringes. We elevate victimhood to the rightful place of sainthood and bow down to the oppressed. Excellence is condemned and the very existence of free agency denied. No civilization based on the worship of victimhood can survive. We can not restore what the suffering of life and the malice of others has taken from the oppressed. What we can do is give them the freedom to choose what comes next. Instead, we focus nearly exclusively on the past and destroy our future in the process.
“No one has ever achieved anything by focusing exclusively on what has been.”
Historically, the Judeo-Christian West has held up martyrs as the pinnacle of individual human spiritual achievement (a martyr being the quintessential example of someone who is willing to die for something beyond themselves). This tradition has honoured sacrifice and suffering as clear paths to enlightenment and salvation. Now, those who suffer are coddled with safe spaces and taught that their very identity is that of a victim. The strength that can come from suffering is robbed from them and replaced with an identity that only serves to weaken their sense of personal agency.
We have forsaken the prophet for the technologist and given up our priests, so that we may comfortably worship ourselves. Our foundational truth is the absolute assertion that there is no truth. The resulting vacuum is now filled by group identities. We cling to these identities in order to maintain some sense of place and belonging. When these identities are attacked, we feel personally attacked, because they are all we have left.
Is it any wonder that our politics has become obsessed with identity and descended into a culture war? Without a consensus on what has meaning, we have returned to our base biological tendencies. Apes fighting over the scarcest of all resources, power. We are consumed by the pursuit of power for its own sake. Meanwhile, the great mass of humanity becomes more fractured and distrustful of both its leaders and each other. There is no common goal or vision of the future.
The past has many lessons to offer us, but we can not afford to dwell there. No one has ever achieved anything by focusing exclusively on what has been. As creators we must build a future. Progress is not inevitable, entropy is. The great mystery of life: it takes chaos and creates orderly growth. Life itself is the act of Creation, and as such a person who is properly aligned with reality will engage in creation naturally. Our purpose is to build; and any form of creation requires a goal that is then manifested by action. Only by focusing on the search for truth and meaning can we ever hope to reclaim our collective future.