Thoughts To Live By (In An Age Opposed to Thought and Life)

Everything that makes life worth living is something we do not have. That is how it makes life worth living. If we had it, there would be no reason to continue. This means that desire is the source of everything meaningful in our lives.

The voices of the modern world shout at us every day, from every rooftop, that we should “live for our desires,” but they really mean we should live to satisfy our desires, which means to end them or erase them through pleasure. As much pleasure as possible, as easily-attained as possible. This, they think, will reduce the pain of desire, and therefore make us “happy.” That is the modern formula of progress which Huxley observed in Brave New World, and encapsulated with the apt descriptive phrase “twenty piddling little fountains.”

When they say “happy,” they mean comfortable, free of the painful strength of desire. But the painful strength of desire is life, understood in the deepest sense — the sense which has been judged antithetical, even offensive, to our age of glossy surfaces without concealed depths. Therefore, when modern voices tell us to “live for our desires,” they are really telling us to stop living.

I refuse to stop living. I refuse to be modern or “progressive.” I refuse to mistake satisfaction for meaning. I refuse to try to escape from the painful strength of my desire. I choose to suffer with it, struggle with it, dig deep into it to find the beautiful, even though it hurts — perhaps because it hurts.

I want to find the beautiful, to observe it, to learn all its surprising levels of being, to suffer through desiring it, and to give birth to ideas and understanding through this pain. Thus, everything that helps me find the beautiful, or that reminds me of it, is good. Everything that releases me from this pain, or helps me “forget” or palliate it, is evil. That is my morality. (All morality is about how we are to live without the perfection we seek.)

Anyone who intends to deprive me of this form of spiritual agitation, or to weaken it, is aligned with evil, and therefore harmful to me. Today, the entire human world, almost without exception, contrives and conspires to divest me of my beneficial and enriching pain, “for my own good” as they say in their more progressive moments. This makes the human world, in its current form, my particular existential threat, my nemesis, to be resisted at all costs.

I wish no friends who would make me more comfortable with today. I reject all political projects aimed at facilitating those immediate gratifications — whether positive pleasure or the amelioration of fear — which would simultaneously reduce the soul’s natural and ennobling struggles.

Winston Marshall was, until today, a member of a musical group called Mumford & Sons. I do not know anything about him, and have never heard any of his group’s songs. At this moment, however, judged entirely on current behavior, I must acknowledge him as one of the almost infinitesimally small handful of popular artists today — Van Morrison and Eric Clapton being the standard-setters and almost only members of this elite club — who have the courage and self-respect to stand up and act like men against the violent and crushing winds of moral infantilism that have swept over the plains these past few years.

To state it briefly, Mr. Marshall has quit his musical group to spare his bandmates the spray of hateful buckshot being aimed at him over a little comment he made on social media praising journalist Andy Ngo for his bravery in writing about his encounters with Antifa and the radical left in America (i.e., the Democratic Party’s unmasked face). I encourage you to read Mr. Marshall’s full, articulate, and highly principled letter explaining his decision at this link.

Apart from paying him the tremendous respect due to any public entertainer today who has the adulthood not to bow to the tyrants and their compliant mob for money and applause, I wish to follow Marshall’s lead in quoting the following perfect words from Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s essay “Live Not By Lies” (published the day he was arrested by and subsequently exiled from the Soviet Union), striking both for their intellectual correctness and for what their precise aptness for today’s situation teaches us about the current state of our “advanced” world.

And he who is not sufficiently courageous to defend his soul — don’t let him be proud of his ‘progressive’ views, and don’t let him boast that he is an academician or a people’s artist, a distinguished figure or a general. Let him say to himself: I am a part of the herd and a coward. It’s all the same to me as long as I’m fed and kept warm.

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