Horse[Man you will find herea new representation of the universeat its most poetic and most modernMan man man man man manGive yourself up to this art where the sublimedoes not exclude charmand brilliancy does not blur the nuanceit is now or never the momentto be sensitive to poetry for it dominatesall dreadfullyGuillaume Apollinaire]
Women's liberation is one thing, but the permeation of anti-male sentiment in post-modern popular culture - from our mocking sitcom plots to degrading commercial story lines - stands testament to the ignorance of society. Fair or not, as the lead gender that never requested such a role, the historical male reputation is quite balanced. For all of their perceived wrongs, over centuries they've moved entire civilizations forward, nurtured the human quest for discovery and industry, and led humankind from inconvenient darkness to convenient modernity. Navigating the chessboard that is human existence is quite a feat, yet one rarely acknowledged in modern academia or media. And yet for those monumental achievements, I love and admire the balanced creation that is man for all his strengths and weaknesses, his gifts and his curses. I would venture to say that most wise women do.
The loss of quality that is so evident at every level of spectacular language, from the objects it glorifies to the behavior it regulates, stems from the basic nature of a production system that shuns reality. The commodity form reduces everything to quantitative equivalence. The quantitative is what it develops, and it can develop only within the quantitative.
For better of for worse the church in the West bought modernity's claims. We were baptized in its story (even though it said it did not have one) and accepted its categories and definitions. But somewhere along the way we also began to believe that the ways in which we accessed knowledge about God or Jesus or the Spirit or Christianity were those things themselves.
It seems more than a little patronizing for Westerners to lament the loss of the good old days when life in the Khumbu was so much simpler and more picturesque. Most of the people who live in this rugged country seem to have no desire to be severed from the modern world or the untidy flow of human progress. The last thing Sherpas want is to be preserved as specimens in an anthropological museum.
Look at us. We build giant highways and murderously fast cars for killing each other and committing suicide. Instead of bomb shelters we construct gigantic frail glass buildings all over Manhattan at Ground Zero, a thousand feet high, open to the sky, life a woman undressing before an intruder and provoking him to rape her. We ring Russia's borders with missile-launching pads, and then scream that she's threatening us. In all history there's never been a more lurid mass example of the sadist-masochist expression of the thanatos instinct than the present conduct of the United States. The Nazis by comparison were Eagle Scouts.
It might seem to you that living in the woods on a riverbank would remove you from the modern world. But not if the river is navigable, as ours is. On pretty weekends in the summer, this riverbank is the very verge of the modern world. It is a seat in the front row, you might say. On those weekends, the river is disquieted from morning to night by people resting from their work.This resting involves traveling at great speed, first on the road and then on the river. The people are in an emergency to relax. They long for the peace and quiet of the great outdoors. Their eyes are hungry for the scenes of nature. They go very fast in their boats. They stir the river like a spoon in a cup of coffee. They play their radios loud enough to hear above the noise of their motors. They look neither left nor right. They don't slow down for - or maybe even see - an old man in a rowboat raising his lines...I watch and I wonder and I think. I think of the old slavery, and of the way The Economy has now improved upon it. The new slavery has improved upon the old by giving the new slaves the illusion that they are free. The Economy does not take people's freedom by force, which would be against its principles, for it is very humane. It buys their freedom, pays for it, and then persuades its money back again with shoddy goods and the promise of freedom.
The modern West has been deeply split about freedom and responsibility. On the one hand, it has championed human freedom in many forms - human rights, sexual freedom, political liberty, freedom to choose in many spheres. On the other hand, many of its most intelligent members have not believed that people are free at all, and have devoted great efforts to show that really we are the product of our genes, our unconscious drives, our education, economic pressures, or other forms of conditioning.
The whole tendency of modern life is towards scientific planning and organisation, central control, standardisation, and specialisation. If this tendency was left to work itself out to its extreme conclusion, one might expect to see the state transformed into an immense social machine, all the individual components of which are strictly limited to the performance of a definite and specialised function, where there could be no freedom because the machine could only work smoothly as long as every wheel and cog performed its task with unvarying regularity. Now the nearer modern society comes to the state of total organisation, the more difficult it is to find any place for spiritual freedom and personal responsibility. Education itself becomes an essential part of the machine, for the mind has to be as completely measured and controlled by the techniques of the scientific expert as the task which it is being trained to perform.
We have been cut off, the past has been ended and the family has broken up and the present is adrift in its wheelchair. ... That is no gap between the generations, that is a gulf. The elements have changed, there are whole new orders of magnitude and kind. [...]My grandparents had to live their way out of one world and into another, or into several others, making new out of old the way corals live their reef upward. I am on my grandparents' side. I believe in Time, as they did, and in the life chronological rather than in the life existential. We live in time and through it, we build our huts in its ruins, or used to, and we cannot afford all these abandonings.
Further, in the modern story, reality is that which is observable, measurable, and repeatable - the kinds of phenomena available, accessible, and verifiable to the five senses. Thus, reality comes to equal the scientific method. It should come as no surprise that in such a world the life of the spirit is ignored or marginalized (as well as a great many other nonmaterial things.) This view of life subsequently birthed in human beings a ravenous materialism as matters of the soul were ignored or reinterpreted within this tightly controlled version of reality. When the life of the spirit is ignored, people will seek to feed the hunger of a neglected soul with the only nourishment available: in our context, the consumptive acquisition of material goods.
In the white man's world, language, too -- and the way which the white man thinks of it--has undergone a process of change. The white man takes such things as words and literatures for granted, as indeed he must, for nothing in his world is so commonplace. On every side of him there are words by the millions, an unending succession of pamphlets and papers, letters and books, bills and bulletins, commentaries and conversations. He has diluted and multiplied the Word, and words have begun to close in on him. He is sated and insensitive; his regard for language -- for the Word itself -- as an instrument of creation has diminished nearly to the point of no return. It may be that he will perish by the Word.
One would love nonetheless to know how to be a man, how to be a woman before God, in the mirror of one's own conscience, in the looks of those who surround us. One would wish to find the strength to beautify one's thoughts and to purify one's heart. It is everyone's hope and expectation to live in serenity and to plod along in transparency: the palms of the hands patiently directed towards heaven, at the heart of all this modernity.
Nothing is born of nothing, least of all knowledge, modernity, or enlightened thought; progress is made in tiny surges, in successive laps, like an endless relay race. But there are links without which nothing would be passed on, and for that reason, they deserve the gratitude of all who benefited from them.