gods in earnest

John Tarrant quoted in The Imperfectionist:

“Before the modern period, it was perhaps clearer that even an ordinary life can’t be fully conceived. Major events often bore neither a signature nor a sensible explanation. People met plague, famine, and war and didn’t have full information about what was going on. They might think that plague had something to do with rats, or was related to an unfavorable conjunction of the stars, but they had no way to test their assumptions. The inconceivable nature of the world becomes obvious in times of catastrophe, yet it is always present. We cannot fully conceive of the functioning even of common objects, like a hand or a banana. The old teachers thought that what is inconceivable to us is, ultimately, the only thing that we can genuinely rely on. In this way they managed to find happiness inside disaster and peace inside war. When disaster is here, and you want to be happy, the happiness has to happen here, the dancing and the music here, even while there is disaster. Where else would you find happiness?” ​

Not having a subsistence lifestyle and being given an internet-connected computer is to be made a god in earnest. And—as is right for a god—we expect things to be conceivable, everything in fact. But this (unfortunately for our parasympathetic nervous system, that animal relic) is not also gifted. And so we are cursed with a search, a search we did not ask for and can barely help; the search for conceivability.
The best go through Christ, the worst through themselves, and to this day, not a shred has shown up. But the apparatus of our wealth, the architecture of our computation and the assorted paraphernalia of our search heap up on the planet’s surface, as happiness and peace become “a contraband passed from hand to hand.. from story to story”.

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