The Infinite Reach of Rational Souls
Nobody hears what you are saying. Nobody sees what you are seeing. Nobody senses what you are feeling, or would understand why you feel that way if they did sense it.
Has there ever been a lonelier time than today? Indeed, how many of us fully realized before today that a time can be lonely? I am not talking about subjective time, of course, the time of one’s private experience, as when we say, “I’m feeling low these days.” I am referring rather to objective time, by which I mean simply our shared temporal framework, “the age” — what we mean when we use a phrase like “in our time.” It is with reference to that impersonal notion of time that I ask, “Has there ever been a lonelier time than today?”
Governments are actively urging people around the world not to meet, and in many cases depriving them of the means to work and support themselves, often reinforcing these “expert recommendations” with official orders backed by police-state coercion. Meanwhile, coexisting alongside this general tone of “social distancing” — i.e., forced isolation, a mandated curtailment of the normal flow of life — these same global governments are taking advantage of their artificially-induced societal paralysis to transfer even more, radically more, power to themselves (and therefore away from you), in the form of various paternalistic edicts and redistributions that would hitherto have been impossible due to a lingering practical confidence still apparent in the daily lives of the citizenry. But that long-fading confidence has now, with alarming ease, been shaken from its final moorings in the mundane and predictable, thus opening a psychological chasm of opportunity, or rather of cynical expediency, allowing the progressive authoritarians among us to swoop into the void with their promises to stabilize things, to restore order — and to “correct old injustices” that are somehow, vaguely and indefinably, responsible for everything that has suddenly gone so terribly wrong with life.
They have separated us from one another enough to have their way with each of us individually — or so they hope.
Therein lies the ultimate meaning, purpose, and significance of literacy, and the answer to the longstanding question, “Why do modern tyrants always want to burn books?” — which they do either in the literal sense, or in the late modern progressive sense of “revising” meanings and establishing fixed and compulsory interpretations and universal condemnations of all writing, and hence all thought, deemed inconsistent with, and therefore threatening to, the closed world, empty mind, and slavish uniformity totalitarianism demands.
A world of unimpeded literacy — of reading and writing free of progressive footnotes and politically-predetermined categories of judgment — is anathema to modern tyranny, for the same reason it was the very breath of freedom throughout the civilized stretch of mankind’s history. In short, the communication among individuals that is capable of reaching, naturally and yet miraculously, across all boundaries of time, distance, and political context, is the soul’s last fortification against the ultimate victory of tyranny. The tyrants know this, and are therefore forever seeking the most comprehensive means of demolishing this fortification. They know that in the process — or rather as the essence of the process — they will destroy courage, purpose, and the spiritual connections that allowed men of the past to withstand even the most despotically imposed conditions of practical isolation and emotional deprivation.
They want to separate us from one another, and from our greatest friends of the ancient past, by destroying what Frederick Douglass called “the pathway to freedom.” Their dream is a world of writing and reading drained of all color, and all its power to break chains, by means of progressive meaning-filters learned through schools and propaganda — a pseudo-literacy deprived of the real thing’s human essence, namely the infinite reach of rational souls flying above the particularizing, socializing, politicizing smallness and immediacy of time and place.
As always, tyranny is the political impulse dedicated to the annihilation of its natural enemy and nemesis, friendship. It is in this sense, then, that it is profoundly appropriate to ask, “Has there ever been a time lonelier than today?”
And yet we might also make this contrasting observation: The sky above us is full of stars even during the day, but we only see them when it becomes dark.