The practical shortcomings of chaotic time, is that it dissolves societies of connective tissue, dazed and confused, amid a culturally splintered world, creating a hole in our soul, from the loss of beauty and meaning, as we daily deal with the hair trigger mentalities of ignorant Trumpians.
We have been reeling, suffering from a technological and cultural vertigo, off balance, our inner ear reverberating uncomfortably, from the consequences of failure to do what the people demand. We are suffering and in anguish over an illegally anointed government elite that has for far too long, failed to serve justice and equality to the mass electorate.
Over the last century, the faith in progress has suffered many setbacks, none as devastating as Friedrich Nietzche’s devastating critique. Nietzche believed that our delusions of constant progress toward an unattainable standard had become the base malady of the Western psyche. The delusion he believed constituted a cruel vehicle of self loathing, a breeding ground for hypocrisy and a barrier around the human spirit.
Nietzche invented the prophet Zarathustra in his book, from Zoroaster, the Persian priest turned profit, who deceptively identifies the problem as the “spirit of revenge” against time, meaning a resentment against history itself, against mankind’s “one way pilgrimage,” whose Enlightened lofty goals, only keep proving mankind’s actual condition to be one of contemptible insignificance.
As an alternative, Zarathustra demands the doctrine that every event is perpetually re-enacted, that everything anyone does has been done before and will be done again forever. Every act therefore becomes meaningless, a mere end in itself, as well as a means to an end. He calls this “the eternal return,” the opportunity afforded everyone to share fully in what it means to be a human being.
Penetrating the facades that support moral convictions and goodness, Nietzche the nihilist, and his proxy Zarathustra believe that all values are baseless and Enlightened reason is impotent.
Over the last century, the faith in progress has suffered many setbacks, none as devastating as Friedrich Nietzche’s devastating critique.
Like nature, history is full or progressive and regressive processes that cannot happen in reverse. Just as the laws on entropy do not allow a bird to fly backwards, or droplets of water to regroup at the top of a waterfall, history has no rewind switch. Like seasons of nature, history only moves forward. Saecular entropy cannot be reversed.
The Renaissance from the 14th century to the 17th century and the Enlightenment Era from 1715 to 1789 was the rediscovery of the world and of man. It marked the true western threshold into modern history, a rediscovery in the search for moral conviction. Along with the Reformation 40 to 50 years later, the intermediaries between man and God were cleared away. The Renaissance redefined historical time as a worldly process towards happiness, and the Reformation defined it as a conscious revolution and a spiritual progress toward salvation.
Early in the 20th century, Herbert Croly wrote of the hubris of “progressive nationalism” and James T. Adams wrote of an arrogant “American Dream.” They referred to the civic faith in the linear advancement of history. Thus, arose the disastrous dogma of American exceptionalism, the belief that this nation and its people had somehow broken loose from any risk of cyclical regress.
The cyclical regress of triumphant militarism has forever shaped the very western style of American civilization. Cyclical time has reigned in the peoples’ value of patience, morality, ritual and the relatedness of parts to the whole of greater good, and the healing power of time within the cycles of nature. Today, we instead value haste, iconoclasm, and the disintegration of the whole into parts, and the nihilistic power of time outside of nature, and don’t fight against the craven powers of corporatism and the “free market” ideologies that are destroying freedom..
Commenting on the matters of Rome during the early empire, the historian Tacitus disagreed with the moralists who believed that the civic virtue of a great society can change in only one direction. “Indeed, it may well be that there is a kind of cycle in human affairs,” he wrote, “and that morals alternate as do seasons. Ancient times were not always better.”
The election season is always part of the autumnal quadrant of the saeculum, when nature matures, when vines luxuriate, fruit ripens, and leaves fall, and respect for life’s and natures fundamentals reappear. It is when the hot summer has exhausted her intent, and people reap their prior plantings, while hoping to replant the seeds for a future fall harvest. It is when all things on earth point to home and hearth.
Looking past our despicable modern day nihilist, narcissist, illegally elected, our generation has produced many examples of honorable and civilized behavior for posterity to copy. We must hope with the election of 2020, that we can progress to reestablish honorable and civilized behavior and actions that will long endure.
Two millennia after Tacitus we must all share this hope and act upon it. We must act as communities of truth to burn away the worldly dross, for the enduring purpose of gaining higher insight. Each generation has what all of history has not: a beginning, an end, and a finite path in between. As Ortega observed, a generation is not a stationary object but rather a “vital trajectory” between the hopes of youth and the memories of old age. Generations age in place in a manner that Francois Mentre described as “tiles on a roof,” overlapping in time, but collective in purpose, complimentary in effect, forming new archetype constellations that can alter every aspect of society to the just and good.
From the Arthurian generation to the current Millennial generation, there have been 24 generations in Anglo-American lineage. As a generation of baby boomers we must act as prophets to our children and future generations, to speak the truth on love-come what may.
The linear school of nihilistic evolution is like viewing all human history as akin to a failed ski jump. After crouching dumbly down in fear and lack of knowledge for millennia, let us now hope after the election of 2020, that mankind can stand tall, finally taking off on our glorious, progressive, final flight of moral autonomy!