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Life Is Going to Get Crazy
Or maybe we're just realizing how crazy it always has been, meaning we'll be getting more in touch with the reality of things and, hence, more sane . . .
Life is always crazy. What I mean by that is, Life necessarily entails the miraculous, given how finely tuned conditions need to be in order for it to arise in the first place. Life is always tentative and precarious, in a universe full of potentially lethal hazards. However, for the past few decades of Pax Americana, we’ve mostly been able to get away with being blissfully ignorant of all those existential threats. We’ve come to see Life as safe and predictable and maybe even a little boring.
We’ve been ensconced in a comfortable cocoon of technological marvels and complex systems that reliably work as expected, where infant mortality rates are so low that our ruling class promotes birth control, and where the leading cause of death has been old age. And it’s been that way for so many generations that many of us now take it for granted.
And yet — that awareness of Death has still been there, haunting our subconscious fears like a ghost. Just as our society expends great resources to reduce as much as possible the number of new humans being born, so too does it spend ungodly sums on “end of life care” — and by that, I do not mean the very admirable quest to ease the pain and suffering of those suffering from terminal illness, but rather the frantic, quixotic fight to postpone the inevitable moment of death until the last possible moment, even when quality of life is abysmal and there is no realistic chance of the patient’s recovery. We see this happening with our sclerotic public officials who cling ferociously to power, well past the point of obvious senescence and incompetence, because to retire gracefully would mean to accept the fact that their lives are fading away with each passing year, bringing them ever closer to whatever lies on the other side of Death.
Paradoxically, the more we have purged from our daily lives every possible reminder of our own mortality, the more petrified we have become with an abiding fear of Death. “God is dead, and we have killed him,” Nietzsche pensively observed. And people who’ve lived their entire lives in a culture that believes in Nothing eternal are now frightened to death of letting go of the only Something they’ve ever believed in. To allay their geriatric fears, our managerial overlords have made “safety first” the categorical imperative of our civilization. We live Life defensively, scared to risk anything in the pursuit of anything truly great. We’re like the lazy servant in Jesus’s parable, who buried his talent for fear of losing it, and in the process lost what little he had.
The American Dream has morphed into a kind of nightmare. You work as a desk jockey within the managerial class, trying to make as much money as you possibly can and, in the process, sacrificing your personal growth along every other dimension of your existence. You disclaim or defer every other potential good in Life, for the sake of maxing out your earnings potential and social prestige. And then you retire and enjoy your “golden years” for as long as you can. You eventually move to a retirement community in Florida or Costa Rica, where you are surrounded by other aging pensioners living the “good life.” You play golf and bingo and listen to Jimmy Buffet songs while enjoying afternoon cocktails. Your immediate family, whom you barely know, occasionally come to visit. But in the midst of your tropical paradise, a shadowy assassin is stalking silently, killing your friends and neighbors, one at a time. Nobody talks about it. When the latest victim disappears, his condo is emptied of his belongings, cleaned and sanitized thoroughly until every trace of him is gone, and then someone else moves in and takes his place. Within a few weeks, it’s like the deceased never existed. If you’re developing dementia, you soon won’t even remember that you ever knew him. The dead are out of sight, out of mind. But somewhere, in the back of your mind, in the dark of night, you hear that assassin whispering in your ear that he’s coming for you someday. And when he does, you’ll be all alone. No one will be there to save you. And after he strikes his fatal blow and your consciousness fades to black, there may not be anyone there to hold your hand or say comforting words to you as you leave this world. You will have to face the assassin alone, but probably only after he has first robbed you of all your strength of body and mind. Of course, the assassin is Death, which comes for us all eventually, and the basic outline of this story reads like the plot of a horror movie. But for a lot of people, that’s how the postmodern American Dream has ended.
Death is still an inevitable part of Life, but it has been pushed to the margins of our cultural awareness. Our globalist technocrats dream of being able to “hack humans” like computers, creating and modifying new types of people for whatever purposes their computer algorithms say will yield the most social utility. They openly wonder what they will do with all those “useless humans” who are left over — maybe virtual reality video games and round-the-clock doses of soma will keep the proles pacified? At least until they die of old age, alone and forgotten, in their
retirement communities tiny pods.
Humanity has been conquered by worldwide managerialism. Risk has been eliminated by AI-generated spreadsheets. History has ended . . . or so it seemed.
Suddenly, Man’s most barbaric impulses and ancient prejudices have burst forth from their coffins, like undead vampires in search of fresh blood. Cold War 2.0 is in full swing, threatening to go hot at any time. Our late-stage bureaucracy is collapsing under a crushing weight of incompetence, neglected infrastructure, and runaway debt. The America (or West) we knew and loved is gone, and we are perhaps only about 14 months (as of this writing) away from an apocalyptic inflection point. And with all this sudden and explosive craziness in the world, we are reminded that . . . Life has always been crazy. We were just able to ignore it before.
Life has always been lived under the shadow of Death. There’s an asymmetry with Life: it is so much easier to destroy a life — or a relationship, a family, a community, or an entire civilization — than it is to create one. In our era of material abundance and easy money, we have forgotten just how valuable Life really is.
Our financial riches allowed us to paper over the spiritual hole in our civilization with gilded comforts and unnatural palliatives — although we would occasionally wonder why we always seemed to be so depressed and anxious and had such a hard time sleeping at night — and eventually we forgot the hole was even there, until at some point recently we lost our footing and fell into it. Now we’re in civilizational freefall, with no bottom in sight.
A silver lining: now that the perils that have always haunted Life are coming into focus once again, if we are honest with ourselves about our condition, and about who and what we are and about how we got into the mess we’re in, we can connect with those who came before us: incredibly strong and resilient men and women who walked “through the valley of the shadow of death” and nevertheless found moments of joy and a sense of purpose in it all, who raised families during an era when half (or more) of infants died, where a death from old age in a comfortable (but sterile) retirement community was not the ultimate goal in life because so many people knew they’d never even make it to old age, and those who did were not able to enjoy decades-long carefree retirements before they died. Their lives may have been hard, but they considered Life to be worth living.
As Herman Hesse wrote in the introduction to Demian:
If we weren’t something more than unique individuals, if we could really be totally dispatched from the world by a bullet, it would no longer make sense to tell stories. But each person is not only himself, he is also the unique, very special point, important and noteworthy in every instance, where the phenomena of the world meet, once only and never again in the same way. And so every person’s story is important, eternal, divine; and so every person, to the extent that he lives and fulfills nature’s will, is wondrous and deserving of full attention . . .
Every person’s life is a journey towards himself, the attempt at a journey, the intimation of a path. No person has ever been completely himself, but each one strives to become so, some gropingly, others more lucidly, according to his abilities. Each one carries with him to the end traces of his birth, the slime and eggshells of a primordial world. Many a one never becomes a human being, but remains a frog, lizard, or ant. Many a one is a human being above and a fish below. But each one is a gamble of Nature, a hopeful attempt at forming a human being.1
Hesse wrote those words while reflecting on the carnage of World War I. As we stand on the precipice of the long-prophesied, long-dreaded World War III, his insights are as relevant as ever.
If Life was really as safe and predictable and boring as our globalist managerial technocrats want us to believe it is — if human beings really were eminently hackable and interchangeable with AI robots — then Life would be about as meaningful and valuable as the cheap crap mass-produced in a Chinese slave-labor factory, or the endlessly unimaginative entertainments produced by Marxcissist Hollywood propagandists cosplaying as artists, which is to say, Life would not be meaningful or valuable at all.
But the managerial vision is a lie, and that lie is falling apart before our eyes, with mere anarchy being suddenly loosed upon the world. The gods of the copybook headings are awakening from their long hibernation, and they will not like what we have done with the world in their absence. Humans are not meant to live like robot worker bees, with no higher purpose than adding to some corporation’s bottom line (or that of the hedge-fund that owns the corporation); nor are humans meant to be lazy, morbidly obese, endlessly-entitled consumers, unable to resist the endless onslaught of omnipresent advertising.
The world is changing, and we get to see it happen in real time. After having been alienated from our own Human Nature for so long, we are being given an incredible opportunity to rediscover ourselves and our Humanity. We have the opportunity to embrace Life in all its rawness and realness. We have the opportunity to really discover that Life is truly worth living.
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Demian, by Herman Hesse, translated by Stanley Applebaum.