When one group of people in society feels unheard for so long, in time they form a crusade, and the object of that crusade is the most human of all demands: feel our pain. It is natural to want the world to understand our suffering as something different, something deeper, something special. The cacophony of our political lives stems in no small part from the ceaselessly multiplying number of groups that ask that their suffering be seen as something transcendent and unique. The trouble, of course, is that we’re all suffering, and in fact to suffer is the least special, most ordinary thing any person can do.
The late Ram Dass once wrote to grieving parents, “something in you dies when you bear the unbearable, and it is only in that dark night of the soul that you are prepared to see as God sees, and to love as God loves.” I do not know what it’s like to love as God loves. But I do know what it’s like to suffer, and then to suffer more, and at last to feel something die inside me. The note of uplift at the end of The Deep Places, uncertain but real, is a record of Douthat’s willingness to let that something die inside of him too, in order to move on. That’s a thing of beauty.
The kind of balance that the experimenting patient needs to strike in trying to get better — the migrations back and forth between the centre and the fringe, the attempt to entertain critiques and speculations without getting captured a simple anti-all-authority worldview..
…in both cases, the specifically medical as well as the general political-cultural, you see the same pattern where a system that has achieved great successes in the not-so-distant past can’t seem to adapt to the rather different challenges of the present, the same sense of bureaucratic incentives throttling curiosity and defeating attempts at innovation, the same feeling that to make progress you somehow have to leave those systems behind.. and then *the same temptation*.. to become so fully outside the system that you begin to lose touch with reality itself.
Preach Douthat, Preach.
Both decadence and chronic ailments cut against the human tendency to imagine a crisis as something that either leads to some kind of fatal endgame quickly or else resolves itself and goes away.. the drama of human existence is replete with long unhappy interludes that feature neither an immediate Nemesis nor a simple cure.. and those interludes require a distinctive response from their inhabitants, neither complacent nor hysterical, but constructive in ways that are intended to bear fruit across a longer haul.
Two things from 95 Theses on Innovation.
As material milieu and spiritual environment, and its unexplored consequences on our imagination. Fruitful connection with the kenotic heart of Christian aesthetic and spiritual sensibilities. Connections between the dilapidated and the wasteland (an urban wilderness?) I guess its explored in post-apocalyptic literature quite a bit (McCarthy for me).
“Every technology, then, embodies some distinct set of values, [expresses its own style].. If we look deeper, we see that our real technological style is Dilapidation. our technological values are best embodied by collapsing buildings, rotting bridges, and abandoned, trash-strewn lots. It is the physical and infrastructural outcome of “creative destruction.” Throughout the nation, deindustrialized, Rust Belt cities molder.. if you want to see who we are, go to Detroit… Infrastructure and the poor belong to a massive shadow nation that haunts this country.”
- The Technological Myth = Fear = Sickness
The Age of Innovation is an Age of Anxiety… innovation-speak is a language of fear.. “basically it’s a language of coercion that implies to people that their lives are fragile, that is charged with that kind of unspecified fear that makes people… it’s meant to make people feel that they can’t get their feet on the ground” (Marilynne Robinson).. “In any case, the spirit of the times is one of joyless urgency.
Lee Vinsel then adds, “news outlets constantly run stories on prevalent diseases that share a major cause: stress”. The majority of people I know are chronically ill, especially young people, and it’s the same in their circles too. Anecdotally evidence is not evidence but what is going on? Something is. Chronic illness is in some sense a modern phenomena, but what can be be talking here mass unrecognised (or hidden) environmental pollution (micro-plastics, food toxins, MCS, EMF)? A-type personality character pre-disposition? Or here, perhaps, a part of the picture; a cultural environment submerged in ambient stress.