The young pagans band around the picnic table and scrawl inky runes into their hands with cheap pens. Around them, the world falls, and wonders if they will...
Back of all this you might hear a rabble-rousing Palestinian Jew from a couple of millennia ago promising that the truth, once known, will set you free - but that poor soul on a collision course with Golgotha was assuming that truth could be disentangled from all the elegant technocratic lies it’s wound up in.
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.
The idea presiding in Houellebecq is that the worship of individual autonomy destroys love. If love is the meaning of life, then a society bent on autonomy for its members will tend to rob life of meaning. “Once you’ve said it, it sounds obvious,” Houellebecq said in another context, “but I wanted to say it.”
For many Americans, especially those on the coasts, in cities, and with advanced educations, life has improved in recent decades. Meanwhile, in many rural and interior parts of the country, economic growth has stagnated or declined, along with the population. While America has improved for a certain type of American, many towns and places inhabited by multigenerational Americans, whose existence is linked to one community across centuries in some cases, have declined.
Think not, then, of the ubiquitous screens and hideous architecture and suburban metastasis and microwave dinners. Think rather of Eric Voegelin’s famous quip—Voegelin, who said that “no one is obliged to take part in the spiritual crisis of a society; on the contrary, everyone is obliged to avoid this folly and live his life in order.”
" None of your readers need me to tell them that the useful work is practical, particular, small and careful: to get away from screens as much as we can, get close to the woods, get close to God, get close to real community. All of the small, old things. Build networks of grounded reality that are not entangled in the wires of the technium. Forge independence."
Houellebecq describe those aspects of our world that swarm us now, beleaguer us, pen us in. They are the products of a world suffused with technology, and of the attendant detachability of human relations. They condition the warp and woof of our social fabric.
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