Baptism of Fire

I’ve always struggled with how many religions deal with forgiveness. In Christianity, to make your way into heaven, you must only accept Jesus into your heart and he will absolve you of all wrongdoing. This always seemed like a con to me. Simply believe what I tell you and you will have paradise. Why even bother to struggle and understand creation if it is that easy to get the ultimate reward? So much corruption and hypocrisy seems to stem from this.

There is an entropy to all things man-made, including religions. This message of forgiveness has been corrupted by church and priest far before it ever reached my ears.  I have only begun to reconcile it in my own mind through much reflection.

Being taken advantage of in my own life has been central to my own understanding. Time and time again, I would find myself in conflicts with some of the closest people in my life. Some sort of catharsis would be reached to give the false idea of an understanding. In truth, nothing had changed. The same sins against each other would be committed. Catharsis would be that much harder to reach the next time.

In order to truly end this vicious cycle, repentance must be given and forgiveness received. This is the same logic behind the practice of heretics and witches being spared if they admitted they had sinned. Forgiveness without repentance harms both. For the forgiver, only more disappointment awaits him. For the person being forgiven, she has cheated herself a chance to transcend her sins.

If no understanding can ever be reached, one must bear the suffering. If this is unbearable, the only action left is to severe the bond.

Without wisdom and truth, only suffering is possible. Wisdom is not easy to attain. It requires constant vigilance and much contemplation.

Only forgive those who have repented and understand their sins. For those where this is impossible, pity them.


Every so often, there is a mold that grows on my shower curtain. At least I think it is a mold. It’s the vaguely pink stuff that grows in damp places if you don’t nuke it with chemicals every couple of weeks.

Now my shower curtain isn’t really something I fret about. I pull it back once a day, in the wee hours of the morning when I am half asleep. I don’t really stand there and closely inspect to see if anything strange is growing on it. I’m a very utilitarian person. Unless something affects my day to day routine, I simply do not notice it. It’s not like I don’t care. It just never pops up on my radar.

Today is one of those days where I noticed it. I was cleaning my bathroom and as I went to pull back the curtain to clean the bath tub I saw all of this pink shit. I thought to myself, “how can I be such a careless person? There is a science experiment living on my shower curtain.” So I sprayed and sprayed away at it. After half an hour, I came back into my bathroom, which smelled of chemicals, and rinsed away the filth. It’s not like you can scrub a shower curtain effectively.

Lo and behold, the pink shit had gone away. It’s no where near pristine. I’d have to buy a new curtain for that. Instead, I’ll settle for no pink and continue to use it for another six months until I stumble across another plastic shower curtain at my local super store for $1.99.

I can’t help but think that so many thing follow a similar cycle: politics, jobs, fitness, friendships, relationships, hobbies. We simply put up with it until we decide “no more”.

Depths of stagnation

That human life must be some kind of mistake is sufficiently proved by the simple observation that man is a compound of needs which are hard to satisfy; that their satisfaction achieves nothing but a painless condition in which he is only given over to boredom; and that boredom is a direct proof that existence is in itself valueless, for boredom is nothing other than the sensation of the emptiness of existence. For if life, in the desire for which our essence and existence consists, possessed in itself a positive value and real content, then would be no such thing as boredom: mere existence would fulfill and satisfy us.
–Arthur Schopenhauer, “The Vanity of Existence”

Boredom is a curious emotional state. It is neither the absence or existence of a pleasure or pain, but rather it is the natural position of human perception. Much like the basic tenet of physics that states an object remains at rest unless acted upon, boredom is the state of emotion when standing still. From it arises a general sense of irritability, a lack of concentration, and a dull, persistent feeling of unrest. The immediate reaction usually entails self destructive behaviour. Often this manifests itself in provoking others with no reason, over indulging in food and vice, and an unproductive waste of time and effort. As the ancient truism goes, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”.

The negative consequences of this emotion leave one wondering the neurological purpose for such an emotion. Purpose for humans is as important as other biological imperatives such as eating and drinking. Moments squandered through inaction are moments that could be spent preparing for survival. One must constantly be on guard to escape the clutches of ennui. If it is not fought off with careful and consistent preparation, it will catch up with you.

Like any other emotion, boredom has various states of intensity. The greater levels of boredom seem to arise in those who have a higher capacity for arousal. When one is satisfied easily with their environment, lack of stimuli seems to engender a sense of lesser boredom that is closer to relaxation than unrest. Like a high-energy system that is self contained with no outlet, those who are easily excited tend to react violently with nothing to devote their interest to.

The capacity for boredom is directly related to the scope and size of one’s appetite for excitement. As such, it functions just like hunger. When there is a lack of nourishment, those with a large stomach grown from overindulgence will feel the pangs of starvation more dramatic and more rapidly than those with more modest appetites.

Boredom also can set in through another way. If one is stressed by an unsolvable or difficult task, frustration can manifest itself as boredom. There may be is plenty in one’s surroundings to generate interest, but it can seem unimportant when compared with the subject causing him stress. The more he tries to focus on his task, the more it seems pointless. This leads him to lash out by ignoring the problem. In this sense, boredom is similar to depression in that it creeps and perverts areas that one would not assume is within its domain. This sense of powerlessness quickly becomes a no-win situation, where diversion into daydreams and secondary concerns only increases the feelings of desperation. It avoids the true source of the discomfort.

The only true solution for any cause of boredom is to attack the cause of it. One must present himself with challenges worthy of his attention. He must also remove himself from any situation that prevents him from doing so. Boredom is a warning. It cannot be ignored. A man that tries to endure boredom slowly cuts himself off from the vital process of survival. He will wither down to whatever level of decrepitude the situation allows him to be. If every environment was intrinsically satisfying, man would only need the bare necessities from cradle to grave. Boredom exists as the bitter taste left from the absence of growth.


One can truly never understand any time period beyond the ones he has experienced first hand. We might hear of earlier eras from our elders, but these stories will always be secondhand experiences to us. These time periods were experienced by another. Their perspective changes the particulars, filters out some and making others more potent. Furthermore, knowledge of the past gained this way is limited to only those that are alive. Any time period beyond the that has no living witnesses.

All historical knowledge beyond that comes from cultural artifacts. Some societies leave behind writings we can republish and read, art we can put up and view in galleries, and plays that can be recast and reproduced in modern theaters. In some ways, this is superior to having an actual witness relate the past to you. One can experience these works of art, assuming they are well preserved, in precisely the same way the people of past did. The universal methods and motifs great works of art utilize are just as effective on us now as they were then. How they are used tells us what values and ideals were important to the author and society that produced them.

In the same way that traveling to a foreign country can teach you of their culture, consuming art can be just as effective. One might not be able to travel to the past, but one can still read an ancient novel. Comparing and contrasting the societies of the past with the current is valuable, even if the work of art is from a culture that you are familiar with in the present. It allows you to get a sense of what has survived from the past as well as what has been lost. The bits of ourselves that we see in bygone eras can help us identify what is important in our own.

One of the most overlooked connections to the past is through architecture. Just as these ancient works of art can portray the people who created them, buildings can act as this sort of cultural mirror as well. Architecture has always lived in half in the realm of the practical and half in the realm of the expressive. Each building stands as both a testament to the designer who made it and the person he was designing it for. In this way, architecture can actually tell us just as much, if not more, about the societies of the past as any art form or archeology.

Architecture is one of the most enduring and present forms of the past. Every city in the world has buildings that are centuries, if not millenia, old. Many of them have been in use during all that time. People continue to live and work in buildings designed and made by a society long gone in their everyday lives. The use of these buildings is hard to misinterpret. A castle is clearly designed with defense in mind and an opera house is unmistakably for performers and audiences. In many cases, these buildings are the only tangible mark of their society still in use. The concrete, wood, marble, and stone was all harvested and cut by their hands. The technology, craftsmanship, and methodology required to erect it was all possessed by the society that produced the building.

However, there are some very strong limitations one should keep in mind when viewing architecture from a historical perspective. Not all buildings are equal. Some are built to last while others, by their very nature, are only temporary. Some buildings are made to be seen and are kept at the center of public life. Others are solely meant to fulfill a singular purpose and thereby abandoned. The most famous and longest lasting examples we have of architecture are the former type of buildings. We only see the buildings that were made to last from periods long ago. As such, our opinion on these cultures has an inherent bias to them if when we base it on these buildings. While we might stand in awe of buildings such as the pyramids in Egypt, The Parthenon in Athens, or Stonehenge in England today, these all had a very distinct and important use in their own time. They were not built for us to view them as tourist attractions now. Their original meaning can only be fully understood within the historical context of the societies that used them.

These buildings have survived due to their significance to the society in which they were built. They were built in important and sacred places. There was no expense spared in building them. They used the best and most durable materials available. They provide a timeless sense of style through their grandeur and impracticality for daily use. If they were co-opted for use by later societies, they would have been worn out or changed beyond recognition. What we get instead is a sort of time capsule and window into the societies that made them.

Perhaps, this is where their true value lies. Even though they were built them to last and as a testament to their religions, they were only used for this purpose for a short part of their life time. Their “second life” as a cultural artifact affects far more people than their original purpose.

When one considers this, an interesting question emerges: what modern buildings would survive into the future in our own society? Many of the buildings considered architecturally significant today were built for practical reasons. Skyscrapers, government buildings, and bridges all require an immense amount of upkeep to keep them in a durable state. They are made from glass that is easily broken and must be washed every few months. Reinforced concrete provides a stable base but it is nothing more than the skeleton of the building. Strip away all of the aesthetic materials from modern constructions and you would see it as plain, austere, and ugly. This has been the case in architecture ever since the late 19th century.

There have been a few interesting exceptions to this trends since then. Most notable were the architecture of the fascist movements in Europe in the 20th century. The head architect of the Third Reich, Albert Speer, explicitly made this one of the goals of his work. In a paper titled “Die Ruinenwerttheorie”, he describes the value he sees in designing buildings in such a way that they would “age gracefully”. Originating in Late-Romantic ideals, Speer notes that buildings are eventually, not matter what precautions are taken, are doomed to disrepair. The society they were built for is not permanent. Once the people are gone that used it, the building will fall into ruin. It is an eventuality that entropy will take is course. The only way that the architect can combat this, in his view, was to design buildings in such a way that limits this decay.

The most famous application of this theory can be found in his design of the 1936 Berlin Olympiastadion. It is replete with Traditional German and Classical Greek motifs. The primary support came from stone pillars quarried in Germany. Steel and modern materials were used but they were unessential to the support of building. The building would stand even if every scrap of steel rusted and every bit of glass shattered. The building was open and clear, allowing for natural lighting to penetrate to deep within the inner part of the structure. It was built in such a way that it supported all of the events the 1936 Olympics required but still retained a “monumental” style.

The stadium, unlike so much of the architecture in Germany from this period, remained relatively untouched by war. Away from the city center, it was protected from the bombing that ravaged most of Berlin. It was neither important enough strategically or symbolically for it to be a major target for destruction. While many other buildings of this nature were completely transformed by the war effort, the German government was able to repurpose it into a bunker, an arms factory, and a radio station without touching many of its distinctive qualities. Its durability made it one of the most important buildings in the post-war era Berlin. It was quickly reopened to be used for recreation and sports and remains so to this day. Despite some major renovations throughout the years, it retains much of the original design and grandeur it had when it first opened.

The fact that the Olympiastadion survived some of the harshest times in the 20th century is a testament to its design and the philosophy behind its construction. Despite the billions of dollars thrown at new construction projects at cities all around the world, very few of them are resilient or notable enough to survive the ravages of time. Buildings like this provide an invaluable link to the past in ways that no other form can. It goes to show that no matter the era something is made in, diligence and dedication to higher values can survive and be remembered. As cities crumble and time changes all, the very few that live up to this high standard will be passed on to future generations of admirers.


Mountains held an important place in almost every ancient culture. If a society lived near any sort of alpine terrain, it was inevitably woven into the culture’s myths and legends. More often than not, it was seen as the realm of the gods. Perhaps the most recognizable example in Western culture is Mount Olympus as the home of the Ancient Greek pantheon. Mount Sinai, in all Abrahamic religions, is the place where some of the most important teachings of God were handed down. Mount Fuji in Japan is home to countless Shinto temples all long its base. Mount Kailash and Mount Meru both play an important part in many Hindu myths. Native peoples such as the Taranki in New Zealand, the Incas in Peru, and the Wintu in California centered their religious life in nearby mountains.

It’s plain to see why so many cultures were inspired by the grandeur of mountains. Their peaks represent a place beyond humanity. Mountains impose their immense figure on the surrounding landscape for leagues in every direction. It is hard to look at a far-off mountain and not get a sense of power. The mountain seemingly leep up to the stars and clouds. Its rocky peak is the only thing to break up the monotony of a clear, azure sky. Mountains were as distant and insurmountable to the ancients as the heavens above. The gods were seen as a bridge between the human and the divine forces. It’s only fitting that they would call the mountains their home.

Human settlement has never touched the highest peaks. It is simply impractical to sustain civilization at great altitudes. All of the necessary ingredients for a society such as agriculture, commerce, and architecture are made difficult. Because of this, most ancient cultures were uninterested in conquering them. Life at the lower elevations was difficult enough. The activity of mountaineering for pure pleasure is a thoroughly modern pursuit.

A good candidate for the first mountaineer is Petrarch, a 14th-century scholar and poet. He completed an ascent of Mont Ventoux in southern France in the spring of 1336. He described the entire event in a letter to a friend, which has made it into the general body of his work. Being an unknown activity at that time, he goes to great lengths to justify his desire to climb. He describe to his friend how he was inspired after reading a text by Livy. It told of a general who desired to survey the terrain an upcoming assault with his army. Only the highest vantage point would satisfy the general, so he climbed a nearby mountain. Petrarch thought this sort of act was singular to the heroic nature of the ancients. To better understand this ethos, he too would climb a mountain.

He spends the remainder of the letter describing his ascent of Mont Ventoux. On his way up, his thoughts wandered to his every day life. He became pensive in a way that he had never been before about such things as the woman he loved, the books he was reading, and the direction of his life. Upon reaching the peak, he was struck by the new appearance his surroundings took on. He able to see across great expanses into France, including the path of the river Rhône and the neighboring Cévennes range of mountains. He stood on the peak for quite while, contemplating the beauty of nature and why men are almost universally moved it. On his descent, he grew silent and melancholic, bemoaning the insignificance of men’s actions on the larger world.

As with Petrarch’s climb hundreds of years ago, mountaineering today gives an immensely personal experience. One cannot simply see a photo from the heights and be inspired in the same way a climber can. Mountain climbing is a inherently heroic accomplishment. It is only through struggle that the activity gains meaning. No one but climber can bring himself to the top of a mountain. It must be conquered through perseverance, an active application of strength, and the endurance of one’s own will. It is not an accomplishment that can be attained through patience, prudence, and passivity. The climber can turn around at any point on the ascent. The path downward will always be easier than pushing forward.

There is a rare kind of purity and simplicity in mountaineering not found in other sports. It does not require any special equipment except in the harshest of conditions. It offers as much or as little challenge as one desires and at any pace the hiker sees fit. The easiest hike can be a peaceful stroll while the most dangerous peaks kill thousands every year. Mountain climbing reflects in life in this sense. More satisfaction is derived from a hard accomplishment than an easy one. By their very nature, mountains bring out the will to excel and push oneself to greater heights. The ever present peak is in the distance throughout the entire journey. The climber has a constant reminder of what he is struggling for.

Once the climber approaches the zenith of the mountain, he is greeted by an intense and inhospitable environment. The very air itself is hard to breath. Shelter from sun is non-existent. He might be lucky to find a boulder large enough that can protect him from unhindered gusts of wind. No water, plants or animals can exist here. Only the everlasting snow and glaciers break up the monotony of the stark landscape.

The world below has changed as well. The climber is free to peer over the precipice on the opposite side of the peak and see an entire world once obscured to him. Even the largest of trees are now only part of an indistinct sea of green. It carpets the slopes below as far as the eye can see. The contours of the valleys hills are now plainly visible. Cities and towns are no longer made up of homes, stores, and offices but rather a sprawling mass of concrete, brick, and asphalt.

Beside the climber are the other peaks of the range. Their silent majesty appears even clear now that he is on equal footing with them. Each of them in turn, beckons him to ascend once more. They might provide a tougher journey, filled with wider horizons, freer skies, and clearer air.

Socratic subversion

To understand the importance of Socratic thought in European civilization, one must first understand how it arose. First and foremost, one should keep in mind the Athens that he lived in. The most well known parts of Socrates’ life are the events leading up to his trial and death. He was an old man of approximately 70 years at the time of Plato’s dialogues. He was born around 470 B.C., just as the Athenian empire was rising to prominence as a true power in the Mediterranean. He was not born into a noble family. His parents would probably be best described as “working class” today.

In the early years of his life, he was stonecutter by trade, working on all sorts of projects to build the ever expanding city of Athens. He was even to have said to have made statues that stood near the Parthenon. He also was a soldier, fighting in several battles that lead up to the Peloponnesian war.

His was life intimately entwined with the rise and fall of ancient Athens. By the time of the dialogues, Athens, who had once been the most powerful of all city-states, had been reduced to the puppet of Sparta. The hubris and arrogance of the Athenian government had lead it from a golden age to rubble. No city in Greece had ever been so high or fallen so low. His characteristic irony and sarcasm are known for having a general sense of disappointment of humanity in them. The fall of Athens and the flaws in its democratic government played a formative role in such attitudes.

The ideological and scholastic developments that Athens displayed during Socrates’ life are just as important as the political. In his elder years, Athenian academics was thoroughly sophist. Many of the wealthy and powerful in Athens were taught by Sophist tutors. As a school of thought, its core teachings espoused the superiority of rhetoric in all things. The tools of argument, if properly wielded, could be used to sway any audience to any conclusion. It did not matter the truth of what was ultimately being said. Sophist thought is a prime example of “form over function”.

From what the dialogues tell us, Socrates was consistently and vehemently an anti-Sophist. He saw their use of rhetoric as a nihilist abomination, an affront to the gods. He held that the underlying truth of the universe was unchanging and could be reasoned with. Disaster was the only outcome for those who would seek to subvert this fact.

Socrates actions in the dialogues, when viewed through this light, take on a new significance. He is no longer just a wise man, exposing the folly of the citizens of Athens, but a critic of his society. One cannot help but see Socrates’ Athens as a civilization in decay, rotting from the inside out. Whatever ethics they had that brought them glory in the past had fled.

Socrates fought against this pervasive attitude by using the own tools of the Sophists against them. Rhetorical flourish depends on exploiting uncertainty caused by the inexactness of language. One can say something vague enough so that it has an effect on any listener. The Socratic method thrives on absurdity. His method of overcoming this vagueness was by raising questions that demanded exact answers. It immediately put his subjects on the defensive. This easily put himself in control of the debate, from beginning to end.

Most of the people Socrates conversed with in the dialogues were much younger and higher born than him. They had lived their lives in a world dominated by Sophist thought. Things they saw as completely reasonable, Socrates saw as foolish. However, it is important to see that he was not arguing with these people for any personal reason, as they were often strangers to him. He argued for the sake of Athens. Ultimately, he was put to death for this very reason, “corrupting the youth” of Athens. The case brought against him was not for any individual offense. His accusers saw the danger he represented against their society as a whole.  The worst punishment comes when the heretic speaks the truth.

There are many parallels between the Athens of Socrates and the modern world. Both are societies who quickly rose to prominence but now are in constant existential doubt. Deep down, both are aware of their tenuous right to authority. They lost the will to create greatness because most realize that the logical conclusion to their way of life creates nothing. It only brings about destruction, yet both societies are too cowardly to change course. As a consequence, they try to stamp out any that might challenge this order as quickly as possible.

Socrates found an effective method for exposing the absurdity of the time he lived in through irony and logic. By questioning everything, including the beliefs held common by most Athenians, he could get people to consider ideas that would otherwise be alien to them.

So much of the opposition to modernity today is pointless. It takes the path of most resistance when it comes to argument. Persuading people against deeply ingrained held beliefs by arguing directly against them is, for the most part, impossible. Trying to save the environment by stopping loggers or picketing an abortion clinic only serves to create contention. Those sort of methods don’t help anybody because they don’t attack the root cause, the insane beliefs brought us here in the first place. One only has to expose the absurdity of the modern world for what it is. Lies collapse in on themselves when the slightest amount of truth is introduced in an understandable way. The Modern worldview is its own worst enemy, but only if people see it for what it truly is.

Putting the rage in suffrage

“There’s really no point to voting. If it made any difference, it would probably be illegal.”

–H.L. Mencken

One of the most sacrosanct values of modern government is the ability to vote. The last 300 years, particularly in the Anglosphere, are a litany of ever expanding suffrage to more classes of people. The path of extending this privileged from white, land owning, adult males to anyone over the age of 18 is a long but steady one. It’s clear when you look at politicians and political movements of days gone by and see if they were on the “right side of history”, in this regard. Small battles are still being fought over technicalities, but the war over who can and should vote is long over. Any attitude besides universal suffrage has been banished from mainstream thought for decades.

If you ask anyone if you should vote in an upcoming election, the answer will be a resounding yes aside from a few malcontents. Ask the same person if they plan on voting and you will most likely get a polite lie in return. Barely half of the eligible persons in “the great democracy” of the United States show up to cast a ballot. The disconnect between these two attitudes is obvious and apparent. The highest civic duty and privilege of democracy is barely being utilized.

If you press somebody on this, you might get a bit closer to the truth. “It’s too much of a hassle and one vote never makes a difference anyway.” It takes a rare kind of person to do something even when they know their action will have no affect on it. In fact, it sounds like a form of insanity. Most people with OCD know that nothing changes when they perform their tics ad nauseum. In this light, it is somewhat amazing that half of the population still feels compelled to take half a day to vote. They will put off whatever they were doing to pull a lever in a cardboard station to vote for someone they will never see in person, let alone meet.

The last time I voted, it was out of sheer boredom. The polling station was literally outside my front door and the line was an obstacle to get out onto the street. My curiosity got the better of me, and I thought it would be interesting to join the line.

What ensued was the most potent soul-crushing mix of boredom and frustration in recent memory. First off, the line only had 30 or so people in it, so I figured it would pass fairly shortly. There were several polling stations and five or so odd people assisting the process along. It took me over half an hour to reach the front of the line. The only thing that compelled me further to stay in the line than five minutes was my own sense of stubbornness.

Once I had reached the front of the line, it took them an additional five minutes to verify my identity. I couldn’t simply hand them my drivers license or tell them that I lived on this block, they had to look me up by name in some arcane tome of bureaucracy. After some fumbling around, the half-awake poll worker finally realized the correct order of the alphabet and found the right record.

This got me a ballot in a manilla folder and a cheap ballpoint pen. After wandering over to the makeshift privacy stations they had set up, I proceeded to look over the options on the ballot. It instantly brought me back into my childhood, when I took public school standardized tests. I saw a few names I had recognized from TV ads and sign posts, but the majority of options were faceless people filling previously unknown positions. Part of me just wanted to randomly mark names that sounded nice, and the other part of me wanted to rip the elongated piece of paper into shreds.

I left leaving most of the options blank. I think one of the poll workers might have put it in the wrong box when I left. It made me wonder if my ballot would be thrown out on a technicality. It is too bad you don’t get a revote in that case. The entire process is designed to make it as hard as impossible to do anything right.

The essential flaw behind voting in a modern democracy is that is voluntary while other parts of society are compulsory. Even in countries where voter turn-out is mandatory, abstaining is still an option. Abstaining from paying your taxes, dodging a draft, or ignoring a court subpoena are not. As a consequence, these are the parts of government that people actually pay attention to. It doesn’t matter if you feel these things are honorable or not. It does not need propaganda and peer pressure to speak well of it. You either do it or bad things happen to you. The action taken is based in fear of consequences and a sense of powerlessness.

In this, one can see the true operational capacity of democratic governments. The sense of cooperation and appreciation of diversity are nothing more a facade for the uglier and more necessary parts of government. It’s success relies on the combination of these two forces. They both need each other to thrive. In a society deprived of any sense of commonality or nationhood, something else needs to jump in and fill the void. Otherwise, people will never work together. The farther a society falls into this trap, the more propaganda and fear are needed to patch the gaps.

I sure as hell know that I’ll never go out of my way to vote again.

Slaves of desire

Freedom is a meaningless word. It is cursed with such ambiguity in the modern era that it has lost all significance. It is without form because it it takes many shapes. Ask a thousand people what freedom means to them and you will get a thousand different answers. To the poor man it means being able to have enough money to quit a job he hates. To a rich man means being able to use his wealth however he pleases. It is bent by the whims of whoever interprets it.

Many take advantage of the sorry state of this word. It is a popular platitude for those who wish to been seen favorably in the eyes of others. Countless ideologies, movements, and politicians have hijacked ‘freedom’ as a rallying cry. Don’t like where you live? You simply haven’t been given enough freedom to escape it. Don’t like who rules over you? They are tyrants who have taken your freedom. Do you feel powerless to change your life? Don’t worry, it isn’t your fault, you’ve simply been oppressed.

Freedom is effective as a political tool simply because it shifts the blame away from the individual. It moves it on to shady cabals and devious oppressors who seek to destroy all of the good things in life. The problem is that these people simply do not exist. Every election and revolution starts out with the same premise: liberate the oppressed and crush the oppressors. The outcome is always the same. Not everyone can be “free”. Some men are born to rule and all others must follow.

In modern society, many see freedom as a synonym of permissiveness. It means the freedom to do whatever they want, whenever they want it. It does not matter how it effects the external world. This attitude can be seen every time nature is crushed to make way for a new freeway, every time a couple aborts a child to extend their prolonged adolescence, and every time politicians kick today’s problems further down the road for future generations to deal with. Let the good times never end. It’s not our problem. It will just go away if we sweep it under the rug and keep it there long enough.

To be free in this sense is a desire to live in a world without consequences. It is to be responsible for nothing except your own whims. This is a form of cowardice. Those who run away from responsibility do so because they are scared of it. It stems from a complete lack of self esteem. When you are responsible for something, it means you have the power to create or destroy it based on your actions. When one runs away from responsibility, he is essentially admitting he is not up to the task. He is afraid that by taking responsibility over something, he is more likely to hurt it than help it.

The tragedy of this mindset is that it destroys any possibility of having a meaningful life. If you look towards your ancestors and search for what gave their life a purpose, you will see that every great accomplishment required taking on a great responsibility. Whether that takes form in preserving a culture, defending their land from invaders, or making a home and raising a family in it. Modernity’s complete rejection of these values has created a vast wasteland without purpose. Reclaiming the world so it is full of meaning once more requires us to give up on the illusion of false freedom. Only then can we take responsibility for the things that matter most in life.

The blind leading the blind

Humans are social animals. We face many problems that are too big for any one person to accomplish. As a result, we form groups to solve these problems. Once a team is formed, roles are needed for each individual. Without them, it is impossible to divide labor in any meaningful way. The most logical way to form roles is based on the strength and weaknesses of each team member.

This is much easier said than done. It takes a great deal of foresight and leadership to reach this optimum balance. More often than not, it seems like the most incompetent get put in positions of power. This is nowhere more apparent than in modern society. People today are deeply dissatisfied with leadership at every level in society, from their bosses at work to their national politicians.

The root of this problem comes from modernity’s core values. It values appearances and words over results and action. It values popularity over actual competency. Only those who appear the most confident are able to convince the masses that they are able to lead. The truly wise are in constant doubt of what they know. They know that they know nothing. When you are inexperienced, big problems appear small. You can only know the true size of any problem when you fully understand the smallest parts of it.

Every individual only has a very limited set of knowledge about reality. Even the smartest physicist knows next to nothing about almost every other subject. Ignorance is the natural state of all knowledge. Very few people actually understand what it takes to be a great leader. When everyone gets an equal say in who rules over them, it naturally follows that most leaders will be chosen for superficial and unimportant qualities.

This can only be overcome by silencing the ignorant and promoting the wise. We must start speaking truthfully about the limitations of everyone. The modern tendency to pander to self-esteem and inoffensiveness is in direct opposition to this. As a consequence, honesty takes a back seat. Reality is subverted. What people want rules over what actually is. People having the courage to call out idiocy is the first step towards a healthier society.

The return of nothing

“From desire I rush to satisfaction, but from satisfaction I leap to desire.”

Go outside right now. Wander off your concrete porch and go find that patch of ugly part of your yard where nothing grows. Reach down and stick your fingers into the barren earth. Pick up a dry clump of dirt. Hold it in your palm and look at it closely. Squeeze your hand tightly and crush it. Feel the filth compact and break into a million little pieces.

You’ll get an urge to wipe your hand clean on your pants. When you wipe away the dust, you’ll be getting rid of millions of life forms from you. Among them are thousands of small worms known as nematodes. Even the most doubtful can get a powerful enough microscope and see them.

To think nematodes have a purpose just doesn’t make sense. They sit in a larval state for the majority of their life. They emerge in a single day. They mate with other worms. Afterwards, they quickly die. This cycle has been that has been perpetuated throughout aeons, billions upon billions of years. An innumerable amount of these minuscule worms have lived and died without any record of their existence.

Their life doesn’t add up to anything but more worms. No one judges them. Nematodes don’t dream. They don’t love or hate. There is no afterlife for them. They appear to be only an slightly interesting, self-sustaining chemical reaction. Eat, survive, reproduce, and repeat. Give them the right environment and they multiply. Pour liquid nitrogen on them and they all die.

Humans are different in only superficial manners. We like to think we have a purpose. We might want that new job that will give us more money for doing less. We might want that new house that is bigger and better than our cramped apartment. We might want to go on a date with that girl you’re always hitting on at the bar. We all want to prove we are worthwhile.

The truth is, these all come from the same place. They all come from the will to persist. This is plainly evident in single celled organisms because they are so simple. We are often so caught up in our own little lives that we fail to see the same behavior in ourselves.

Look into your own desires. Examine what brings you satisfaction. Is any of it lasting? We all are born and we all die.  We are all given desires to want.  We all have dreams to chase.  Surely, they must serve some purpose. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be there.


Conspiracy theories are far more common than we give them credit for. Everyone harbors some belief that the majority rejects. We live in a world where we only see an incomplete picture of reality. You only have one set of eyes.

For a narrative to be compelling, it must be complex. Everyone has tried to interpret a dream at one point in their life. The best ones are the dreams where you only remember bits and pieces. Meaning comes when you try to formulate a cohesive story out of the dream.

Our worldviews are created in a similar way. Wars spring up on every corner of globe. Genocide is a regular occurrence in history. We hear about another mass shooting every month like clockwork. Some people are so rich that they couldn’t be bankrupted from spending a fortune each a day. Others are so poor they can’t even afford food. All of these are begging to be explained. They must have a reason.

Understanding is the basic purpose of consciousness. It is the interpretation of the past to predict the present. The smaller the system, the easier it is to understand. All scientific knowledge is gained by isolating a phenomenon down to its essentials. This sort of thinking is not universally applicable. Treating life like a science experiment is a recipe for disaster. A person is a infinitesimally minute part of a much larger system.

Despite this, we are still implanted with the desire for understanding. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t smart enough to connect the dots, you are going to anyway. Much like the trope of the obsessed detective scouring through random clues to break a case, we search the world for meaning. You see that shady figure behind the bush in this photograph? That isn’t a smudge on the negative, that’s the real the killer.

Modernity has made the world more complex than most people can handle. People want to know why they can’t find a job. They want to know why their kids are so fat. They want to know why their country seems to get worse with each passing year. Most people have a hard time staying awake in history class. Why should we expect them to understand global politics?

What they end up with is nothing more than patchwork. An ideology based on appearances and intuition rather than reality. Some people put their faith in God for these answers. Some people put their trust in a charismatic politician. Very few are honest enough with themselves to realize that truth isn’t a birthright.

Horror vacui, nature abhors a vacuum. Meaning and purpose have always been a useful mechanism for survival. Even if modernity has made it irrelevant, the urge lives on.

This is my rifle

I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to buy a gun.

I realize I’ll probably never use it. It’ll sit at the bottom of a drawer in my nightstand. It’ll be covered by miscellaneous junk that inevitably accumulates in drawers. If I ever need to get to it quickly, I’ll probably have trouble finding it. I won’t keep it loaded so I’ll have to scour the junk once more to find the magazine. The ammo will probably get jammed as I load it. The safety will be set on. With any luck, I’ll have a usable weapon about a minute after I needed it. I’d probably be better of defending myself with a 200-year old, single shot musket.

Owning a gun to “defend yourself” is mostly bullshit. Unless you are going to strap a gun to your chest every day, you are probably never going to be in the position to use it. No, I don’t want a gun for defense. I want it for peace of mind.

It puts you in another class of men. In every society, the people with real power have weapons, and they have the best weapons they can get their hands on. For the past 300 years or so, that has meant guns. In most third-world countries, the government is so ineffective that they do not rule most of their own cities. Some towns are ruled by a mayor and others are ruled by a crimelord. Most cities are a mix of both. They each have their own different set of leaders and laws. There is one sure way to see who has the real power. Just look for the people with the most guns, then you’ll know.

The state only regulates things that threaten its power. It should come as no surprise that guns are heavily-regulated world wide. In many countries like Switzerland and South Korea, gun ownership is strictly tied to military service. Compulsory conscription means that citizens will learn about firearms through their government. How to hold them, how to clean them, how to aim them, and when to use them. Subconsciously, it reinforces the state as the arbiter of destiny. If you want power, you’ll have to get it through them.

It’s hard to meet someone who doesn’t have a strong opinion about guns. This opinion operates on an instinctual and visceral level. Are you uncertian of how you feel about guns? I’ve got a surefire way for you to find to out. Simply hold one in your hand, take aim, and squeeze the trigger. You will feel something. If that target was a person, he’d be dead. Don’t knock it until you tried it.

That amount of power can be intoxicating. If you aren’t ready for it, it will frighten you. It is cathartic. There are a lot of uptight people in the world. I bet if there was a gun range on every corner, there would be a lot less stress. It’d certainly be healthier than a bunch of convenience stores. I wonder how many people are dying each day from cheap beer and potato chips that come in hermetically sealed bags.

That’s probably why my father has a cabinet full of guns. It’s probably why his father does too. I bet my great-grandfather had a whole rack of rifles back in his heyday . I doubt any of the guns were ever used. Besides the occasional target practice, they’ll sit down there and rust. There is something very human about just owning a weapon. You’ve got to prepare yourself if the world goes to hell.

Serenades of opposition

We live in an age of untruths. Far too often, we bite our tongues instead of speaking our minds. We have been trained to do so from early youth. There are certain things you can say aloud to anyone, certain things you can say only in confidence with close friends and family, and certain things you must forever carry alone in your own mind. The most well-adapted man to the modern age knows these boundaries well. He knows what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. For this, people think of him as clever, insightful, and witty.

Conversely, a man who does not follow these rules becomes a social pariah. His words become an albatross around his neck. If one is not careful about what he says and to who he says it to, he is branded with labels that forever stain his reputation in the eyes of others.

A man who gains this particular form of infamy is treated poorly by all. Every society has its own strain of ideology. When people group together, they need a protocol for understanding each other. History shows that if a society does not have an ideology from inception, it quickly acquires one. It is required for a sense of group identity. Without a shared ethos, a society crumbles into chaos.

Because of this, those who have the audacity to attack a society’s ideology are seen as the most vile kind of man. They become public enemy number one. Past societies had a multitude of names for this sort of man: heretic, blasphemer, infidel. These words have fallen out of fashion in modern society, but they are very much alive in their spiritual successors. They are needed more than ever.

As a consequence of diving deeper into the recent obsession with globalism and diversity, members of society continue to have less and less common with each other. The chaos this breeds requires a greater force to uphold it. You can see in action all around you today. Any time someone calls another out as a bigot, a chauvinist, or a extremist, it is an attempt to form social cohesion in this brave new world.

The basic concept remains the same today. It is no different than the shaming done in the past. If something goes against the grain of the lies that everyone else has agreed upon, it will be demonized. The primary difference is that you don’t need to kill, rape, or pillage to be considered a barbarian any more. In this form of modern insanity, words speak louder than actions.

The worst kind of punishment comes when the heretic speaks the truth. The weakest of ideas are rooted in lies. People do not castigate an insane man, they feel pity for him. A society is only compelled to utterly destroy a man when he threatens it with truth. Look at any two examples of virulent persecution in history and you will see one overriding commonality between them, they dare to say that the emperor had no clothes.

Persecution is not something that can only be viewed through the obscured lense of history. It is alive and well. It will only grow stronger the farther we dare to plunge further into the ideas that have made the modern world. Look around and you will see witches being burned at the stake. There is much to be learned from their heresy. In a world increasingly ruled by madness, those that we deem insane are the only ones who dare to speak the truth.

Favored by misfortune

Our society is obsessed with status.  Thousands of movies, documentaries, and TV programs are dedicated to the billionaires, movie stars, and politicians we deem important.  They strive to answer what makes them great, how they reached such heights and places of power.

Some of them ascribe to to luck.  “Bill Gates was just in the right place at the right time.”  Some attribute it to innate ability.  “Marlon Brando was just born a great actor.”  A select few of these narratives choose to focus on hard work.  They emphasize the thousands of hours of diligence poured into their work.  They set them up as examples for the viewer to aspire to.  You too could be great, if you just work hard enough.

These narratives are always less than satisfying.  The audience is captivated by the idea of vast amounts of power, but they must continue on after it is over.  Everyone must go back to their average paying jobs and their unaccomplished friends when the weekend is done.  Greatness is too complex of a topic to be boiled down into a catch phrase.  All attempts to do so are doomed to fail before they even start.

One of the most noteworthy attempts in history to understand greatness comes from Renaissance Italy.  The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli was written as a study into what makes a leader gain and keep power. Its lessons have since been widely applied, to everything from business to warfare.

Born into 16th century Florence, he lived his entire life in an Italy dominated by political strife.  He begins off the treatise by directly addressing the ruler of Florence, calling for him to rise to an unmatched greatness.  Only then could he unite the warring states of Italy and bring peace to the land.  In the ensuing chapters, he describes, at great detail, how great rulers are made.  He cites both contemporary and ancient sources as role models and cautionary examples.

He deviates little from this formula throughout the entire book.  A notable exception comes towards the end.  There is a chapter that concerns itself with the good and bad luck princes must account for ruling.  Instead of citing history, he speaks in generalities and metaphors.

In this chapter, Machiavelli speaks of a force he calls fortuna.  Most English translation render it as the word “fortune”, but it has a much more profound meaning.  She is a force to be reckoned with.  She is one that brings both blessings and curses. No one is outside of her grasp. She happens to everyone, from peasant to king, though not all at once.  It is impossible when to predict when she will smile upon you or bring misery to your life.

Despite the fickle nature of fortune, he still finds meaning in it:

I compare fortune to one of those torrential rivers which, when enraged, inundates the lowlands, tears down trees and building, and washes out the land on one bank to deposit it on the other. Everyone flees before it; everyone yields to its assaults without being able to offer it any resistance. Even though it behaves this way, however, it does not mean that men cannot make provision during periods of calm by erecting levees and dikes to channel the rising waters when the come, or at least restrain their fury and reduce the danger.
The same may be said about fortune, which tends to show her strength where no resources are employed to check her. She turns her course toward those points where she knows there are no levees or dikes to restrain her.

Misfortune casts it shadow on all men at one point or another. It does not effect everyone the same though.  Those wise enough to prepare for hardship will be the ones affected least. The true virtue of a man is tested in these moments.  The ability to deal with adversity ultimately determines his position in life.  In times of plenty, there is enough for all to live on.  The strong only show their worth in the worst of times.

Modernity is a time of untold prosperity.  We see it in every obese person on welfare, every professor who raids the state’s funds with tenure, and every time an apology is demanded for hurting someone’s feelings.  These people have never known starvation, never experienced war, or put their life on the line.  It takes only a modicum of effort to provide for the basics of life today.  The further we proceed into modernity, the more this weakness shall rule.

Machiavelli offers this chapter as a warning. Anyone who depends on the great fortune of today will be the first to fall when misfortune hits.  All glory is fleeting.  A decadent society that does not prepare for the future is no different.  It too will crumble at the first sign of true crisis.

Broken wasteland

Ask anybody what the problem with modern cinema is.  More than likely, you will encounter the notion that “too many sequels are getting made”.  Not enough new ideas are put into scripts.  Hollywood simply raids the past to create the blockbusters of the present.

It’s a formula that often works well.  They simply take a film that was made 30-odd years ago, update it with new slang, a new setting, and the latest computer generated film techniques. It makes for a successful product.  People flock to the theaters in droves, pay far too much for a ticket, and sit in dumbstruck awe for an hour and half.   All for something they have seen a million times before.

Both the audience and the filmmakers what a farce this is.  They are pure waste of an artistic effort.  Yet, we still go see them and they continue to make them.  Everyone is guilty. The unspoken truth behind mass media is that nobody actually cares about the merit of the output.  The producers only care about how much money a film will make.  The cinema goers only care about wasting a few hours at some place other than their depressing homes or apartments.

These films get made simply because most people are, at heart, cowards.  We gather around the dining table or the living room and despair.  We know we should be doing something together.  However, it can’t be something that actually takes effort.  Attempting to do something meaningful is always hit or miss.  We’d much rather choose an activity where little effort.  If it turns out badly, at least we didn’t really try too hard.

This often means choose something that everyone will like.  Nobody should be offended by what is put in front of us.  They might blame us for that.  Instead, we appeal to the lowest common denominator.  A film that might require thought might upset somebody.

This often takes the form of some shared cultural relic from days past.  Filmmakers must go back to a time when popular culture meant something to everyone, since it no longer does today.  The past is our last refuge for understanding each other.  Remakes and sequels are powerful for this reason. They carry prior expectations of greatness by the culture that created them.

As modernity marches onwards, popular culture will continue to degrade. Not until it reaches previously unknowable levels of idiocy will it ever get better.  Only when things start of fall apart do we see the meaning in creating something new.  The adage “if something isn’t broke, don’t fix it” holds true, even for things as vapid as Hollywood movies.  It is only when confronted with the rampant desolation of something completely broken does true change happen.   Patching the holes in a sinking boat only extend the suffering of the desperate passengers aboard.

The road to hell

August 9th, 1945.  A date as good as any to signify the start of the modern era.  It was the day the first nuclear weapon was used on a civilian population.  An entire city razed in the blink of an eye.  Thousands of lives snuffed out faster than it takes for someone to flip on a light switch.

The true tragedy of the atomic bomb does not lie in its potential for mass destruction.  Cities have been wiped off the face of the earth since time immemorial.  Women and children have  always been casualty of war.  The a-bomb is terrifying simply because of how efficient it is.

It once took legions of highly trained and motivated soldiers to destroy a city.  It would take days to spread the destruction with fire, put all those who opposed it to the sword, and round up everyone else in chains to be sold into slavery.  With the invention of nukes, a single man in a solitary plane became an unmatched killing machine.  He became a one man army who takes no prisoners and spares no wounded.

A nuke is the most modern of all weapons.  It’s the McDonald’s of bombs.  It brought the fast food mentality to warfare.  Grand in scale and deadly in its efficiency, it is simply the fastest way to fight a war. It removes human error and human weakness from war.  It does not matter whether he vaporizes a saint or a sinner.  Its only concern is that all is destroyed.

Since that day in 1945, the threat of global nuclear holocaust has loomed over the world.  Each and every person in modernity has it hanging over their head like a radioactive Sword of Damocles.  In an effort to ensure the safety of their own citizens, other nations started to acquire nuclear weapons. It had the opposite effect on the world at large.  The fear of annihilation only grew stronger.

Fear of global nuclear winter reached an all time high in the ensuing decades.  The two world super powers of the era constantly had to prepare for countless end-of-the-world scenarios.  Eventually, they both concluded the only sane policy for this new kind of warfare was one of mutually assured destruction.  It led both to stockpile a countless number of weapons that could incinerate the world many times over. All in the effort to deter the other side from ever using one.

In an act of supreme cosmological irony, not a single one of these weapons has ever been used.  The most sophisticated, powerful, and costly weapons ever made were created for peace.  They sit dormant in a missile silos and submarines all around the world.  Their only purpose is to rust away into obsolescence.

The psychology behind this farce is a symptom of the modern mind.  Nobody wants to live in a world that can spontaneously combust at the whim of a tyrant.  Yet, once nuclear technology was out of the bag, it could develop in no other way.

This mentality can be found in any undesirable development of the modern world.  Nobody likes living in a world were they have to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic at rush hour.  It takes most people hours after a long day at work just to get home.  Any sane person would prefer to be able to walk to their job.  Before cars, almost everyone did.

Cars started out as a luxury item.  It was a fad for the rich alone.  It was merely a status symbol.  However, as the technology became cheaper and more reliable, the benefits of owning a car were plain to see.  Within the span of a generation, car ownership shot through the roof.  It transformed itself from a novelty into a necessity.

Cities changed to accommodate this new development.  As cars flooded the streets, the infrastructure need to be updated. Old buildings were demolished to make way for expansive freeways. As commuting by a car became the new normal, valued any other mode of transportation. It soon became impractical to walk, ride bicycles, or ride the train in many cities.

The voluntary of the past becomes mandatory of the future.  When the majority adapt a new technology, it becomes the path of least resistance for everyone else.  Each bit of progress seems beneficial to the individual but it ultimately backfires when it becomes adopted en masse. Modernity is the tragedy of commons on the grandest scale.

Prophets of doom

Modernity is obsessed with its own destruction. It loves to create solutions to problems that don’t exist.  Everyone over 25 remembers the hype the Y2K bug unleashed.  For most of the 1990s, popular culture was obsessed with it.  The idea that a simple computer bug that had the potential to destroy the world as we know it was far too tantalizing.  From this, multitudes of apocalyptic visions sprang forth. At the stroke of midnight it would cause widespread general mayhem.  It could wipe out bank accounts and trigger massive looting.  Defense systems could malfunction and cause a nuclear holocaust.  A world wide effort went under way to stop the unthinkable.  Hundreds of billions of dollars went into preventing it.

Sane voices downplaying the mass panic were ignored.  Conspiracy theorists took it as their own and ran wild with doomsday scenarios.  Local news broadcasts exploited the hysteria.  They would run a broadcast on it every couple of weeks.  Large corporations made public proclamations that they were 100% compliant in an effort to assuage their customers’ fears.  Several companies sprang up over night and offered floppy disks and CDs to check for affected systems.  They spread among the general populace like a cure for the plague.

The year 2000 came and went. No major crisis happened.  Every day life remained unaffected.  Today, it is nothing more than a joke people can reminisce about.  It’s the kind of thing someone brings up when conversation goes stale at bad parties.  A collective cringe of embarrassment arises whenever the three letter acronym is mentioned.  At best a it will be greeted nervous chuckle and shrugged off.

It was a blessing this hysteria had a time limit.  The new millennium offered a crucible for the crisis.  Either it ended at the stroke of midnight or we were all safe from it forever.  Most conjured catastrophes do not offer this luxury.

Modernity is replete with crises that offer no end in sight.  Modern man still gobbles them up just the same.  People want to believe that the world can end with a flip of a bit or a push of a button.  The root cause of the popularity of these apocalyptic visions is still deep within the modern psyche.  It is a desire for escape through destruction.

Every ideology has its own version of Armageddon.  Each are surprisingly creative and elaborate.  The man who values the environment above all else preaches about global warming.  It will kill us all in just a few short years unless we stop the pollution now.  Economic doomsayers will yell about the impending collapse of global trade until they are blue in the face.  Those concerned about the degeneration of our immortal souls will warn of the ascendence of Satan on judgement day.  It will bring damnation and eternal hellfire to all sinners.

It’s an effective tactic for getting a message out.  It plays into the base fears that everyone holds dear.  Each scenario promises utopia.  The only problem is that people are evil. If only we could get our act together, eternal paradise would be ours.

Despite all of our sins, we have eluded doomsday so far.  The four horsemen seem to be taking it easy. Nuclear catastrophes, massive oil spills, and global wars threaten the world every day. Life still goes on. No matter how hard he strains his bindings, the fenris wolf remains tightly bound.

Yet, there is truth behind these wild fantasies.  Every beginning has an end.  Brutus was right when he killed Caesar.  Rome was destroyed when it became an empire.  He could see that Caesar was setting the republic on a dangerous path from the very moment he crossed the Rubicon.  His only misstep was the length of his foresight.  Instead of immediate collapse, it took another 400 years before the end of his nation would come to pass.

As a consequence, his actions were unnecessarily drastic and, ultimately, all in vain. Brutus could not prevent the fall of Rome with the death of one man.  He soon met the same fate of he dealt to Caesar.  After being hounded by those who would avenge their slain emperor, he paid for his foolishness with a dishonorable suicide.  A just cause with a noble intent can lead to death as surely as the most vile deeds.

No one act can reverse the sweeping causes behind the course of history.  Societies rise through many actions of prudence and justice.  Societies fall through a multitude of immoral and shortsighted deeds.  Trends, fads, and crazes all fade with time.  Reality eventually comes for them all.  The most lasting change a man can enact is to be wise and just with each action he takes.  The best weapon against the insanity of the modern world is a life lived well.

Ancestral sanctum

And what could be more divine than this, or more desired by a man of sound mind, than to beget by a noble and honored wife children who shall be the most loyal supporters and discreet guardians of their parents in old age, and the preservers of the whole house?
–Aristotle, Oikonomikos

The more time one spends in nature, the more clearly one sees the role of mankind.  Reflection requires a reference point to be meaningful.  It is impossible to compare and contrast something without having anything to compare it to.  Modern thought often presents man as outside of nature. As a consequence, it stifles understanding about mankind’s place in the environment and the world at large.

One of the most striking differences between man and beast is how their young are treated.  Some of the strategies animals use appear altruistic.  Fish like the Chinook salmon go to great lengths to spawn, only to die long before their children are ever born.  Many species of insects will lay hundreds of eggs and wait. The mother will offer her body for sustenance as soon as the larva hatch.

Other strategies appear cruel and selfish.  When a new alpha male takes over a pride of lions, one of the first things he does is to kill any of the still nursing cubs fathered by the old patriarch.  Sand tiger sharks gestate many of their offspring in the same embryo.  As each of the young sharks develop, they kill and eat each other to ensure only the strongest makes it out into the open sea.

On the surface, all of these behaviors seem wildly different. In truth, they are far more similar than most recognize.  They all exist to ensure the survival of the species.  Each strategy for producing fit offspring is dictated by the habitat and niche the species has adapted to.  If the offspring are born into hostile environments, they must be strong when they emerge into it.

Human offspring are born into a world with its own unique set of perils.  By the time the child grows up, he must develop a wide range of abilities to cope with the complex world he is born into.  If he does not, he will not be successful.  Raising a human child is an intense and difficult process for this reason.

Humans mature slowly at almost every stage of their life.  From the moment of conception. a single child brings with him a great deal of effort.  Gestation takes the greater part of a year and takes a heavy toll on the mother.  Her body undergoes a great deal of physiological changes in order to support the offspring. For most of the pregnancy, she is incapacitated from doing many activities she would normally be able to do as part of her daily life.

Once the child is born, it still requires a great deal of attention and support during the first few years of his life.  Many mammals, when separated from their mothers at a young age, are able to survive on their own.  Most humans, even in the most primitive settings, would be unable to do so until they are well into their adolescence.  People are simply not equipped with the instinctive knowledge other animals have.  Humans can only counteract this with many years of development.

Our ancestors came up with many strategies to deal with these biological shortcomings.  The most prevalent and successful is the creation of the nuclear family.  The concept of a family reaches beyond culture and time.  Since the dawn of man, they have been a constant source of support, cooperation, and survival.  The family is there for a person over the span of his entire life.  They are a basic building block in human survival and happiness.

In ancient and feudal societies, the family was central to the way of life.  It provided much of the safety net that modern governments provide today.  It provided a stable environment for both men and women to contribute raising offspring.  If one became injured and unable to work, his family would care for him until he became well.   When old age came, a man could depend on his family to provide for him when he became too feeble to do so himself.

Customs in these societies dictated when and how family members would share resources and cooperate.  Cultures adapted to the general circumstances that their environment put upon them. Many families in these societies had a strict structure.  Each member was delegated with an important role.  Everyone had to perform that role in order for the system as a whole to work.

Concepts such as paying dowry when a daughter was married, all inheritance passing to the eldest son, and marriage without the possibility of divorce seem strange and foreign to modern people.  The common criticism is that they unnecessarily limited freedom and encouraged inequality. This was not the case to the people who used them. To the societies that created them, they served an important role in daily life.

Modernity is a stranger to theses customs because it no longer needs them. Technological advancements allow these old customs to be replaced.  Family in the western world has grown increasingly weaker since the enlightenment.  Many of these archaic cultural practices have disappeared completely.  Children no longer need to stay close to home to help with the harvest.  They need to move to a big city, where all of the jobs are.  Women are no longer needed to raise children.  They can put all of their offspring into daycares while they are improving their careers.  The elderly no longer need to be taken care of.  They can now be monitored at all hours of the day in retirement homes.

With each passing year, the family has become less important to human existence. Modernity has a propensity to sunder ties of kinship.  It is not hard to imagine a future where they are no longer necessary.  When that day comes, living with a traditional family will be a disadvantage.  It will burden anyone who dares to use it with unnecessary restrictions.  Taking a year off of their job to care of their sick father would be nothing more than a hassle.  He would loose invaluable job experience that would hurt his career.

In many aspects, modernity has declared war on the family.  Ultra-modernist political systems call for a utopian society where everyone is treated equally.  The very concept of family subverts this sort of society.  When a fire breaks out, a mother will always choose to save her own child over anyone else.

There are certain things that a family provides that modernity will never be able to replace.  No matter how productive someone is without a family, he has lost an immeasurable source of human identity.  The closer two people are related, the more likely that they will come to each others aid.   Humanity, since its inception, has always gained a great sense of happiness and purpose from family.  Without families, we can never be a son, daughter, father, mother, sister, or brother to someone else.

These relationships mean something more than pure, raw survival.  The roots of these relationships grow deep within our genetic make up.  We have inherited them from our ancestors.  To have a family is part of what it means to be a person.  Until we stop being human, family will always be central to our lives.

The birth of hatred

People are generally lazy by nature.  Procrastination is a trait that affects everyone.  There are few things more powerful as a motivator than a tight deadline.  They are even more effective when there are great consequences attached to the due date.

It should come as no surprise that social and political movements take advantage of this human weakness.  Rhetoric for every cause uses the innate laziness found in man as a primary tool to spread their message and magnify its percieved importance.  Regardless of the issue’s real size, every ill in society must be made far worse.  Otherwise, nobody will care to address it.  After all, there are many other issues that need to be addressed.  Many of them far more dire and wide ranging than the ones that get actual attention.

This is observable any time an issue rises to prominence in modernity.  In order for people to care about national debt, politicians must scream about how it will bring about the end of the nation.  For a charity to get donations to help African poverity, they must plead that millions will die of hunger and of genocide without their help.  Preachers must speak of eternal damnation and hellfire to get people to repent their sins.

The human attraction to these arguments stems from the innate tendencies to think in black and white terms.  There is little room for gradation in most politics and religion.  Something must be right or left, good or evil, heaven or hell.  Discourse about large, nebulous topics must be forced into categories humans can easily agree or disagree with.  Otherwise, they are easily forgotten.  It is the only way people can deal with topics beyond the scope of the commonplace.

This uncomfortable separation into discrete categories is the source of almost all disagreement.  These categories have meaning to the individual and the group for them to be useful.  They are influenced and colored by all of his experiences and all that he has learned.  While two people might be talking about the same thing using the same words and phrases, the conception behind it can be entirely different and thereby lead confusion.

Modernity thrives on this basic misunderstanding.  Multiculturalism and globalization bring together people with vastly different experiences and beliefs. The fact that most people are packed into crowded cities only exacerbates the effect.  To a Muslim, the hijab and burka are seen as symbols of purity, chastity, and temperance.  To a westerner, it is seen as a symbol of sexual oppression.  In truth, it is neither.  It is only a piece of cloth.  The meaning each person gives it is what breeds resentment.

As a result, modernity brings about conflict and anomiosity at the most basic of interactions.  People deal with this by retreating to places where they can be understood. The best way to avoid conflict is simply to remove oneself from the circumstances that cause it.  The bonds of neighborhood and community break down until society becomes a dog-eat-dog world where every man must fend for himself.  Once cooperation is no longer present the simple foundations of a society, to live in it becomes more trouble than it is worth.

Only through great effort can somebody see the perspective of another.  Even then, it is often only a superficial understanding and prone to error.  It is an unnatural way to think about the world.  Most people are incapable of “putting themselves in someone else’s shoes” at a basic level. Modern societies operate on a level that are ignorant of basic human nature.  Mankind has got to know its limitations.  Only then can it overcome them.

Modernity kills freedom

“If you could go back in time to any period in history, which would you live in?”  It is a common fantasy to imagine how one life would be different in a another time and place. Everyone has answered this question at one point or another.  Occasionally, someone will try to be smart with his answer.  He will object to the premise itself.  Why would anyone would want to go back? Living any time but now would be terrible.  Modernity is the only sensible time period to live in.  Progress has made all of our lives so much easier.

The core of the argument is that modernity offers all sorts of comforts and securities. The people of the past could only dream of what we have now.  Modern people lead longer and safer lives, just look at how much longer we live now.  Humans used to live short, harsh lives, struggling against the elements.

It was a matter of life and death for our ancestors just to find food, shelter, and clean water.  They had no rifles to defend themselves when dangerous predators attacked.  They had no restaurants to gorge themselves when on they were hungry.  There was no doctors to prescribe antibiotics to them when they got sick.  They must have been miserable.  It is no wonder that our ancestors only lived to middle age.

To any one with a cursory understanding of history, it is obvious this is an extremely narrow-minded perspective.  Even if one accepts his assumptions, the argument itself is flawed. It assumes that our ancestors lived shallow and unhappy lives.  It assumes that physical security and longevity are sole determinants in living a  fulfilling and meaningful life.  They are not.

This is plainly observable by noticing the amount of unhappiness still present in modern society. Progress has never brought about a utopia.  It has only brought security to the individual.  It has prevented much of the pain and suffering caused by hunger, pestilence, and the climate.  Instead, modern man must worry about problems on a global level.  He worries about pathogens and pesticides polluting his food and drink.  He worries about power mad politicians sparking a global thermo-nuclear holocaust.  He worries about overpopulation and pollution destroying the environment.

Modern man has just as much to fret about as his ancestors did.  The difference between the two is the scale of the issues.  Modernity has brought problems that are much harder to address.  No one person, tribe, or even nation can solve them any more.  For example, not even the richest billionaires on the planet have the power to solve world hunger.

As a consequence, the modern man has an overwhelming and deep rooted sense of powerlessness.  Compared to his ancestors, he can do little to influence the environment around him.  Where once a man could defend his family against raiders and thieves with his own weapons, modern man must rely on the police to protect them.  When a man grows his own food, he need not worry about what chemicals he was feeding to his family.  Whatever sense of pride and security man once got through self-reliance has disappeared with the introduction of modernity.

Any sane individual would want to live in a society where they can make a difference.  Powerlessness breeds depression and despair in everyone. Man gets a sense of purpose and contentment from setting attainable goals and solving them.  Modernity is the systematic concentration of the power of life and death to the hands of an increasingly smaller amount of people.  True freedom is known to less people today than any time in history.  The past wasn’t a horrible place to live and die, modernity is.

The shallow revolution

Bread has been a staple of the human diet ever since the first societies formed in the neolithic. With the cultivation of wheat, people needed an easy way to process and consume it. Many different forms of bread were developed to meet this task. Its basic function has always remained the same.

Go to any store in North America and you will see an aisle devoted to bread. In it, you will see it in dozens of different brands and packaging. It will appear in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. The medium of baking has had a long time to develop its product. You will see some bread from local companies that cater to the customs of the region. You will also see bread from foreign lands. Bread that was unheard of in the general population only a few generations ago. Ask an American what roti or pita is back in the 1950s, and you would get an odd stare or two.

There will be one kind of bread that stands apart from all the others. Without doubt, it will be the most widespread, advertised, and prevalent bread in the aisle. It is simply known to many Americans by the characteristically generic term ‘white bread‘. While bread itself might be as ancient as agriculture, this incarnation is relatively modern. The first forms of white bread can only be traced back to less than a century ago.

Before the 1920s, most bread in North America was cooked either at home or at a bakery. When white bread hit the scene, it became an instant hit. The appeal was in how it was made. It was mass produced in a factory. Every loaf was the same- no matter when or where it was bought. It was cheap, easily made, and instantly recognizable. The bread was the ultimate product. Unlike bread before it, it was pure, uniform, and tasteless.

Needless to say, Americans ate it up. Soon it became synonymous with bread itself. Until the counter-culture of the mid-century, one would be hard pressed to find any negative attitudes about it at all. With the advent of hippies, suddenly eating whole-grain artisan bread became an easy act of rebellion against the corporate system.

Like all revolutions, it eventually died out due to the sheer impracticality of the change it advocates. Corporations can easily adapt when their bottom line is starting to be affected. Within a few short years, a multitude of new brands with old-world names started popping up on supermarket shelves. If you looked close enough to the label, you can still see the same huge, publicly traded, multinational corporation is making it. It tasted slightly different, came in more eco-friendly packaging, and cost a few dollars more.

This is the nature of change in modern society. It is only skin deep. The new bread that hippies gobbled up was essentially the same. It is still made in the same factory along side plain, old white bread. It still uses the same chemically bleached flour. It is still is about as nutritious as paper.

Unless the modern system of production becomes vastly different, this is about as much change as one can expect. Without understanding the past, future generations will be doomed to make the same futile mistakes. Modern rebellion is about as tame as it comes. It is only about appearing to be rebellious rather than actually making any sort of real change. Modernity offers any lifestyle you might want to live- so long as it is the same as everyone else.

Honor the unknown

Ulysses was pleased at being made thus welcome, and said “May Jove, sir, and the rest of the gods grant you your heart’s desire in return for the kind way in which you have received me.”

To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, “Stranger, though a still poorer man should come here, it would not be right for me to insult him, for all strangers and beggars are from Jove.”
-The Odyssey, Book XIV

Imagine being stranded in any modern city. There is a chill in the air and nightfall is approaching fast. It is a city foreign to you. You have no acquaintances to call upon and no money to rent a room with. People are quickly emptying the streets and heading homewards. You can try to stop people to ask for their help or advice but most will simply move on and ignore you. What other option is there available to you but to find a sturdy park bench and hope you do not freeze to death in your sleep?

Every city is filled with thousands upon thousands of well heated rooms. Many of those are unoccupied, yet they are closed to you. You might as well be asking them to jump off a bridge with you. Most denizens of the modern city know what kind of person is not able to get shelter for himself. He is sure to be dangerous and insane if no one else will put up with him. The gated communities, doormen, and complex electronic security systems can be found at almost every well-to-do residence in the city; they exist simply to keep you, and others like you, out.

Hospitality seems to be a foreign concept in modernity. It was once one of the highest virtues. It stood side by side in the minds of the ancients with high morals such as truth, justice, and courage. Paganism in every corner of the world valued hospitality as a cardinal virtue. They are central themes in they’re most important and enduring art. Many parts of Homer’s epics, the sagas of the Norse, and the song of the Bhagavan make little sense without first understanding how they viewed the importance of hospitality.

At the core of the virtue is respect. It is readily apparent that the guest should be thankful and respect the host. He is providing the guest with shelter and warmth. Without his kindness, the guest would be deprived of basic comforts. He is imposing on another for the sake of himself.

Hospitality has another side to it. It also includes the respect the host shows the guest. The ancients knew this and saw it as equally as important. They often thought of this concept through the lense of paganism. In the terms of the gods, the hospitality of mortals often played a central part in myth. Odin and Zeus are the perpetual wanderers and traveled in disguise in many myths. The ancient perspective saw travelers as a possible an incarnation of one of their deities. If they turned them away, they could be risking the wrath of the gods. A wanderer could still be a dangerous mortal. He could still be maniac that could harm you, but the ancients understood that he could bring great fortune.

Modernity has no such respect for guests. It sees no use for anything out of the ordinary. No one, modern or ancient, can truly tell the character of a guest. The stranger always brings with him the unknown. A guest, especially the foreign, is often an inconvenience and unwanted. It is not easy to provide for another, even for a short while.

The difference between modern and ancient society lies in how they each address the unknown. Ancient societies rose to the occasion. They met the inconvenience with good nature and optimism. Most of modern society simply lacks the courage and endurance to deal with hospitality properly. Any time modernity is confronted with responsibility of any kind, it deals with it in the same way- an annoyed sigh and a vacant shrug.

People often bemoan modern society as being too distant and impersonal. Modernity increasingly deals with people from behind a computer screen or speaker phone. Barriers against the outside world are put up in the form locked doors and gated communities. Real connections between people are few and far between. Perhaps the first step to making the modern world a more livable place is to relearn the ancient value of hospitality.

Living backwards

The modern world is vastly different than all eras before it. Anyone with a cursory knowledge of history can it is very different than all that came before it. One only has to look at the past and look around at societies of today.

For thousands of years, the population grew at a stable and sustainable rate. It has since exploded at an exponential rate. The world has magnitudes of more people on it. Modernity has pushed the life span of the average person to near double what it was only a century ago. Where only the strong and prosperous lived into “old age”, it has now become the commonplace.

War used to mean meeting the enemy on the open field and killing each other in hand to hand combat. In modernity, war has many meanings.  It can now mean wiping out entire cities with intercontinental missiles carrying high yield nuclear warheads. It can mean controlling unmanned aerial vehicles behind a computer screen to wipe out dozens of people in a tactical yet indeterminate air strike.  All with the push of a button.

Buildings in modern cities are now taller than all eras before them. Each year that passes brings a new record holder for the tallest.  Bridges can now cover distances that unfathomable before. We can broadcast a thought to the entire world in an instant. It once took a single letter took years to reach the other side of the globe. Clearly, modernity has brought humanity to new heights of progress.

However, progress is not a given. Imagine an Italian peasant in the 9th century. Looking in his village, he could see ruins of an empire that came before him.  The architecture contained therein was clearly beyond anything his own society would be able to produce. The buildings were stronger, more beautiful, and more enduring. They were the product of a society long past.

These great ruins were built by his ancestors. The society that created them inhabited the very lands he now does. This society possessed something that his does not. This wisdom was lost long before he was ever born.  All he can do is look at the ruins.  He can do nothing that can replicate their past grandeur.

The peasant’s society has lost the technology that was used to create the ruins. The word technology comes from the Ancient Greek tekhnologia. It is comprised of the roots tekhne, meaning skill, and logia, meaning study or practical application. A literal translation of tekhnologia would be the practical application of skills.

This is what most people mean when they speak of progress.  They mean modern technology.  The skill to create new and ever more complex tools.  The ruins once held a significant purpose to the society that built them.  To the peasant, they only serve as a remind of what once was.

Modern man can look back to the accomplishment of his ancestors as well. The accomplishments of the ancients are many. While modern buildings might be taller, modern warfare more deadly, and modern travel faster, there are still many great things that modernity has ignored in pursuit of technology.

Modernity focuses on the tangible and the immediately recognizable.  In many cases, it has sacrificed much to achieve this.  When modern man looks at an impressionist painting, hears a romantic opera, or reads an ancient novel, he will experience something similar to what the Italian peasant felt looking at the Roman ruins.  He knows they are something that his society cannot reproduce.  For all of the progress of modernity, it still lacks the essence that made past societies great.  Until modernity learns this, all of its technology is doomed to triviality.  Technology is forever a means, not an end in itself.

Pull the plug

I would rather die having spoken in my manner, than speak in your manner and live. For neither in war nor yet in law ought any man use every way of escaping death. For often in battle there is no doubt that if a man will throw away his arms, and fall on his knees before his pursuers, he may escape death, if a man is willing to say or do anything. The difficulty, my friends, is not in avoiding death, but in avoiding unrighteousness; for that runs deeper than death.

-Socrates, Apology of Socrates

I went jogging a few days ago. I do this every Sunday morning.  I’ve found that I am much like a dog; I need to be let out every so often to prevent me from becoming restless.

It was a cold morning, well below freezing and windy.  This made it a bit harder to motivate myself to get out.  I had to remind myself about it isn’t so bad once you start moving. Proper clothing helps a great deal.

On my way to the park I usually jog in, I pass underneath a freeway.  As I approached the overpass on this morning, I noticed something out of the ordinary.  I was able to see several makeshift beds at a distance.  They were mostly comprised of old rags for blankets, cardboard for mattresses, and random junk for pillows.  The “beds” all lined up in a row.  There must have been five of them on either side of the sidewalk. The makeshift hovels were crammed into whatever small shelter the overpass provided.

In a split second, my reptile brain alerted me.  I thought about changing course.  It told me it would be easy to find another route around this encampment.  I overrode this thought just as quickly; there has been little in my past experience these kinds of people that would justify fear.

Within seconds, I had passed them.  It is hard not to feel pity when faced with such destitution only a few feet from you.  The cold only exacerbated it.  They were barely recognizable as humans underneath the mountains of filth they piled on themselves to stave off the immense cold.  It was evident they had very little on their mind besides warmth.

Almost as suddenly as they came, these thoughts were pushed out of my mind.  It is hard to keep much focus when battling the elements with a pounding heart-rate.  It wasn’t until I was winding down and heading homewards did my thoughts return to the huddled masses underneath the overpass.

They clearly weren’t living a good life.  The essence of pity is empathy.  Empathy stems from being able feel what another feels.  Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I was certain I would never be in their situation.

They live a life beyond what I consider worthwhile.  Long before I ever reach that point, I would either force change upon my self or choose death.  I value living well too much to have it any other way.  Life for only for life’s sake is repulsive.

Modern society often takes the opposite view.  In almost every action modernity makes that deals with life and death, this is no distinction does not show itself.  Too often do people exist as former shells of themselves in nursing homes; they are simply waiting for death.  Universal healthcare is seen as a basic right; all must be taken care of at any cost.  Thousands of patients in hospitals around the world are dead to the world living in a vegetative state; they are only alive to the machines that give them a pulse.  The sole imperative of this mindset is just to keep life going at any cost.

The distinction between life and a good life is where difference between heaven and hell begins.  Societies with any sense at all instinctively know this difference.  Where absolutes rule, madness reigns.

Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind

Once, as I was botanizing under an oak, I found amongst a number of other plants of similar height one that was dark in color, with tightly closed leaves and a stalk that was very straight and stiff. When I touched it, it said to me in firm tones: Let me alone; I am not for your collection, like these plants to which Nature has given only a single year of life. I am a little oak.

So it is with a man whose influence is to last for hundreds of years. As a child, as a youth, often even as a full-grown man, nay, his whole life long, he goes about among his fellows, looking like them and seemingly as unimportant. But let him alone; he will not die. Time will come and bring those who know how to value him.
– Arthur Schopenhauer

There are many different kinds of people.  Some are rich and some are poor.  Some are powerful and some are weak.  Some are lasting and profound and others are only a flash in the pan.  We can all see these differences.  They are right in front of us and impossible to deny.

It is much harder to see the potential in people.  To be able to see what someone will become requires a great deal of insight and forethought.  It requires you to identify the character of the person, what drives their wants and desires, and their ability to transform that will into reality.

It is impossible to know these in total for anyone.  Very few people can see what the future holds for someone.  Most people even have a hard time knowing their own path.  These characteristics that determine the trajectory of a life manifest themselves differently for every person.

To really get to know someone requires time.  The longer you know someone, the more you can understand what really drives him.  A bit of their soul shows itself with every action he takes.  Each choice that is presented to him hints at that greater force that determines their potential.

If his ambitions are shallow, you will see him being controlled by his whims.  He will move from trend to trend as his fancy dictates.  He will sample everything but stick to nothing.  Since he is bound to none, his roots will never take hold long enough for him to grow anything beyond a weed.

Someone determined and in control of his own path will show his nature through his actions.  Every time the hard path is taken over the easy is a chance for him to grow stronger.  Whenever intelligence and foresight win out over the temporary and pleasurable, it is a glimpse at his future greatness.

Modernity does not value the great.  It values the common.  It values quantity over quality.  This predilection for the cheap and unlasting corrupts everything its roots seep into to.  We see it in our politics whenever a demagogue gains power through pandering.  We see it in the economy whenever we apply for a job that will be filled by the unskilled simply because they will work for less.  We see it in each landfill that gets filled with useless plastic junk made in overseas sweatshops.

Modernity makes no exception in how it values people.  Those that thrive in this environment are the parasites that thrive in the muck underneath rocks.  Those that are fruitful and multiply in such a world are merely a reflection of it.  They will continue to do so as long as the strong allow it.

Ultimately, this worldview will crumble.  It only promotes that which does not last.  It will not last either.  It can only reap that which it sows: destruction.