Life is inherently unpredictable and requires engagement without certainty of outcome. It also often requires patience. No matter how many labor-saving and time-bending devices we create, we will never exist in a completely predictable and easy environment. “Convenience” ceases to be convenient when it is sapping us of the courage we need to encounter everyday life.
No one even tried to keep me. The dead, not an argumentative sort to begin with, never had the chance. The living, God bless them, had been so thoroughly tutored by modern life that they could, in the same breath, say how wonderful was my “great opportunity” to go and how sad they would be that I couldn’t stay.
With simple elements of bread and wine, the church, then and now, celebrates the memory of Christ’s death by partaking of the sacrament of his body and blood. Ignatius wants to share in the suffering and thereby the glory of his Lord. He knows there are worse things than death - above all, a failure to follow Christ, even to the cross.
These modern forms threaten the desire for familial and communal life—an aspiration traditionally associated with conservatism, especially the conservatism inherited from Aristotle, Cicero, and Burke. The spirit of the careerist and the influencer counter this classically “conservative” spirit that aspires towards an actual family and community with all the duties each entail.
We live in a society where lust, greed, gluttony, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride have been commercialized. When the self and its desires are everywhere celebrated, to contain the self is a form of revolt. There begins the path. There begins the search for the eternal things. The first step is to rediscover renunciation. “What does it mean?” Kingsnorth asks, “and how do you do it?” These questions are not glitzy; they are not click-bait.
To the tomb, all life hastens. But while death is ineluctable, the growing good of the world is not. There is an intrinsic vulnerability to civilization (and parenthood), in large part because the beings who comprise it have the capacity both to sustain and destroy it; to be “the best of the animals when completed” and “the most unholy and … savage” when divorced from virtue.
Despite Americans’ instinctive openness, decades of deadly overdoses and mass shooting victims remind them that there have to be boundaries. The difficulty of controlling protests in Russia and China reminds them that closing down too hard can destabilize the government’s hold on society and trigger an exodus. The question that remains to be answered is whether these vast societies will push their limits to the extreme such that they lose the things that closure was meant to secure and that openness was meant to allow.
We may heap much of the blame or praise upon generals and czars and presidents, but they are rarely in the trenches. We may want to avoid taking responsibility for what happens, but big things often require many people working together. Individuals alone do not shape history. It is not wrong to be either disappointed or excited about Elon Musk taking over Twitter, but it is wrong to expect wealthy individuals to solve our collective problems.
The last few years have shown that liberty and truth are felt less in the bones by each new cohort of educated élites who will go on to craft policy. Still, something more timeless does come through in the frustration that I see growing on the faces of young Chinese on my Zoom screen, as they say they feel more like pawns on a shrinking board than ever before, and in the firm handshakes of the stubborn activists who will not yield and who appreciate the chance to talk with anyone sympathetic.
Chris Hytha is a laudable example of somebody civilizing our approach to digital assets, and I fully support him. I’m glad to see fellow Philly Porchers Anthony Hennen and Nick Russo elevate Hytha’s work, but I don’t see any way to align the Wild West NFT economy with Wendell Berry’s “Great Economy.”