(The following is a reflection based on a reading of Paul Kingsworth's esays. I certainly don't agree with a lot of Paul's ideas, but he inspired some thoughts in me. I've reworked into my own language ideas that admittedly were inspired by him, blended with my own.)
Why does humanity seem to be so radically off course, and why do we know that things are not good in our innermost?
The zeitgeist narrative is the Luciferian slab on which the current common worldview depends. The motive seems to be arrogance, of the pride of being unique. It is a story in many reality and mystic places, religious and secular spaces, embedded in scientific, economic and political forms. Somewhere in the past, we split with the creaturely reality of humanity. We began to master and control the creation. We no longer feel one. We dreamed of our glorious future of prosperity achieved by the powers and might of our hand. It is the story of human centrality, of species destined to be lord of all it surveys, unconfined by the limits of other lesser creatures. What makes this story so dangerous is that, for the most part, we have forgotten that it is a story. Or we confused our story as the reality of the divine plan.
A sharp dualism dominates western European culture. There is an endless conflict between two cultures, social traditions and spiritual worlds.
First, the war society of the barbarian kingdom from Ghenghis Khan and the economic counterpart of Venetian banking and trade. Conquest, occupation, exploitation and conformity, cults of heroism, aggression, and projecting false masculinity. From the worse age of church inquisitions, conflicts with other religions (Judaism, Islam, Hinduism....), endless continental wars, despots and dictators, conquests, exploitation, rape and pillage, all reaching a summit in colonialism and nazism. The first stream of western heritage.
The second is the peaceful society of the Christian communities, with its ideals of asceticism and renunciation, high theological culture and contemplative traditions. The historian Christopher Dawson regards this second stream of western heritage as the principal source of that dynamic element which is that decisive element for Western culture. This is the developmental aspect to western culture. The part that seeks a more integrated, lower friction mode of living. This is the sacrificial life of living with oneself, with others and as fellow participants in both the natural and the human system worlds.
These two narratives conflict within us and without in our societies. All of our current ‘issues’ is simply a version of one of these two streams. We cannot think apart from these two camps, and sometimes we rant at the world with a foot in both. African, Latino and Eastern cultures came to be dominated and blanketed by Western success. Who knows in truth what these communities think without the syncretistic contamination from this dominant west. Part of the dominance structure is that its great shade makes diversity extinct.
Onto the rootstock of Western Christianity, the Enlightenment at its most optimistic grafted a vision of an earthly paradise towards which human effort, guided by calculative reason, could take us. Following its guidance, each generation will live a better life than our ancestors’ lives. History becomes this escalator, and the only way is up.
On the top floor of this pyramid, we find human perfection. This apex must remain perpetually out of reach to sustain the drive and reason for motion. Our politicians, leaders, and bosses are continuously reminded and tantalised. The media folds this web, and our thoughts echo confirmation.
In the words of the disgraced former UK prime minister:
“We are tired of Boris’s boosterism, sick of the endless politics of the present political scene. Nero fiddled while Rome burned; Johnson frets about banning “wine-time Fridays” while huge problems smoulder away in the long grass.
Against these giant challenges, we see pygmy politics with no clear plans, and the mismatch is frightening. This presents an opportunity for the opposition. Instead of claiming to be the grown-ups, they must show it. Instead of churning out tweets tutting at the latest Government screw-up, the opposition should prepare a government plan that confronts the hard decisions others have ducked. They should be assembling a “brains trust” to answer the nation’s questions.
The western problem is that the west was Christendom, but Christendom died. Then the west was progressiveness, but now progress has died. (Jesus died and rose again, but systemic Christianity combined with political power or the Christendom of the past is truly dead.)
To reach for the elusive apex becomes our mission, our purpose. The purpose-filled life frequently is just a version of this. The interpretation of the kingdom of God is sometimes just a couched version of this.
The danger is that we pigmy people assume giant challenges and find that God will not fill the mismatch on demand because God knew all along that we are who we indeed are.
In truth, the world is not the mechanistic mechanism signalled to us by modernity.
The world is a mystery.
One we participate in daily.
We will fail, weakly or gloriously, but fail, we shall.
This is the manifest evidence that the human will is not the will of God.
The true power of stories is this. Any narrative about the world is always a tool, a map, by which to navigate the complex territory of reality. But this map should never, never be mistaken for the territory. Don’t let the story dictate the reality.
The challenge is how to combine story and reality in the right combination. How to enunciate this in a manner that galvanises action. To endow this action humbly and generously, but not emphatically.