We have at long last arrived at the limitlessness of our discontent. That peculiar period of empire when the expansion knows no bounds and the shape of our resolve acquires a formlessness for never having to retrench and a softness for wont of the callouses brought on by the chafing nature of friction as we exert ourselves and push against that which stands in our way.
For there is now nothing in our way.
This is happening in every domain. Who is an artist?… if not a person who says they are so. Those who transgress the forms to traverse areas un-lovely should be destined to starvation; except that an egregious overflow of nonsense emanating from a philosophy which no longer requires discipline and reason which is no longer called upon to answer questions (and be held accountable for those answers), which no longer seeks truth – has allowed our art to become ugly. So too in literature; great novels which no longer can sell, crowded out by tell-alls and dime store thrillers, that is if people read in the first place. Politics which does not inspire nor call to us the better versions of ourselves but instead serves as the Animal House trough over which the malevolent battle wickedly on the streets and in cyberspace. Movies made not from great acting and stories epic and ideal but instead replaced by limitlessness of violence and licentiousness. Families lines redrawn; ideas re-written; food reprocessed and regrown and stored – for the quiet question asked in the darkness of yore “But how will we survive this winter?” has never, nevermore been whispered. The credit companies will pay; the state will assume the risk; the Central Banks will print the money – spend, spend, spend away; for the limitlessness is our inheritance!!
Newton’s third law talks about an equal and opposite reaction to every action; but our limitlessness knows no such law. No longer are we held accountable for that which we do; universities become petri dishes of intolerance and safety unto the guaranteed jobs promised by the New Aristocracy, just don’t offend the gatekeepers. That larger house? That larger car? Changes unnatural desired, bought and paid for – technology as the last failsafe for a life lived improperly. And community? Community be damned – for why should I answer to them or seek their approval? And my God? Well who the hell is she… I shall rewrite the laws from a land distant and disconnected and with those I shall ruin those who dare deride my limitlessness. For have you not heard? God is dead.
Has any of this made us happier? Perish the thought…
Alexander Tytler once said, “Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.” I think he was onto something there, for the limitlessness we now experience is that of an expanding red giant, when the disciplined power of fusion is weakened and the star loses its coherence expanding rapidly gross and obese, before exploding.
I read often the great old books; at the same time as I watch modern cinema. The difference is striking: While in modern cinema the conflicts are most often social in nature, and nair a thought is given to the opulent environments in which play out the scenes of post-modern angst, not so the novels. The greatest of great novels are those about hardship and the construction of that infinitesimally thin cushion between now and the destitution. “Of Human Bondage”, that epic tale by W. Somerset Maugham about starvation and tribulation in Elizabethan England; “Les Miserables”, of how to rebuild a life after being wrongly convicted in a hard land with no safety nets.
Oh, I don’t disdain our great limitlessness, for I am also a primary beneficiary. But nor do I take it for granted, assuming that our tremendous prosperity crawled out of the muck and the mire of a devastated world much as we were supposed to have done eons ago. I know that the intelligent design of our civilization has required ideas and philosophies and sacrifices, and I honor those who went before: Jefferson and Washington and Madison and Rockefeller. And I fear the supernova, more for my son than myself – for these things take time to play out. But as for me and my house, I am teaching my boy Ben Franklin “A penny saved is a penny earned”, Ayn Rand “Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver,” Erich Fromm “Not he who has much is rich, but he who gives much,” and of course Henry David Thorough “That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest” while we together read “The Little Red Hen”. Because he’s going to need these lessons if he is going to survive our arriving ordeal.