This Is Nothing Special

Most human beings throughout all of the known history of our species have lived in subjection, whether in literal slavery or in the somewhat more figurative but no less tangible enslavement of life lived at the end of tyrannical tethers. They have had to struggle their way through some sort of unnatural or partial existence in which the most fundamental choices Nature provides to men by birthright were largely out of their hands. They dreamt of things they could not see, and of distant worlds they felt little hope of reaching, because the things and worlds they could see were better left unseen, or at least, more realistically, reduced to the spiritual status of an unavoidable mask or filter obscuring the beautiful objects residing in their imagination, the liberating objects shining in their emotional need, or the true and knowable objects suggested by their rational intuition. 

This is what our species, for the most part, and with only incomplete and intermittent exceptions, has ever been: Politically restrained, educationally stunted, morally shrunken — but somehow resilient enough to sustain, however incompletely and intermittently, a vague image of what we have not had, and a dim light of understanding that this image, however unreal in practice, memory, or prediction, nevertheless represents more accurately what we are. Something to cling to, a longing that guides us, even when our journey seems plodding at best, and so often absolutely stuck in its tracks.

Today is nothing special. On the contrary, this receding humanity is normal enough to be mistaken at times for human nature itself. We all — those of us capable of seeing what is happening, that is — feel the pull of this ultimate resignation before the all too familiar certainty of civilization in decay. That pull of ultimate resignation is the siren song of nihilism. It is a falsehood, but an attractive one in that it so easily seems to coincide with what we see in our immediate surroundings, almost everywhere we turn in a time such as this. It does coincide with what we see — as long as we allow our vision to become trapped in these immediate surroundings, which is to say as long as we fall into losing the threads of imagination, emotional need, and rational intuition that more properly define us. 

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