Idle Musings of the Hypothetical Citizen
One season in the hell-world of American pessimism had put the hypothetical citizen in a funk. "All around me I see the good. Good people, good buildings, good machines, good foods and wines, good athletes, good films....but I am in this dark haze, this awful feeling of dread that all the props will fall and behind all the good are the lurking devils." He had not been religious in the normal sort of the word. He had read and been fascinated by the mystics of a variety of faiths. But he had read modern psychology with greater zest and believed they were more on top of the game. "These horrific energies in me must be evidence of a pain I suffered long ago. Ah, they are not real but the good in front of me is perfectly real!" This satisfied him to an extent. He enjoyed the rest of his day eating the wild berries that grew behind the house he was staying at.
Later, his mood shifted again. It was a gunshot. And in the neighborhood he was staying at gunshots were not uncommon. Few of the shots hit anyone, thankfully, but it was disconcerting. "The man who fires the shot, is he good or not good?" And as soon as he addressed the question a flood of pessimism entered the picture and he was back in the old funk. "The man who fires the shot is as real as the good people who don't fire the shot. In fact, the moment he fires the shot he is making a judgement about what is more real; the good or the bad. But what if this bad person was an objective problem? What if he were a traffic jam that destroys the integrity of the good and stirs up nothing but anger and frustration? The traffic jam is a bad, therefore a pessimism that I am caught in occasionally."
The pessimism all had to do with what was outside of his control; yet he was a free man. First was the knowledge that a city could be easily destroyed in one bomb blast and that armies were superfluous. Second was that while a genuine power was spread over the land, the real power was concentrated in very few hands, attached to brains that could be nuts at times. Thirdly, there didn't seem to be one bit of effort to leap out of the dilemma by the majority of people who kept circling around the same things day after day as if they were cats from Egypt happily lapping up milk served by bare-breasted girls. And forthly, a genuine depression could descend in modern culture transforming the need for faith and knowledge into a nihilistic glee in the destruction of everything.
These pessimism's were at the heart of his fears for democracy.
A steely, wafting air of destruction had descended on the culture. But what else did he have but constructive structures that could hold the whole of things as it was experienced by himself? He had seen the odd phenomenon of citizens deliberately making themselves ignorant so that some adolescent passion could live. What good was the freedom if this was the case?
"The slavery of the spirit is the most bitter of slaveries and one revealed to persons too late," he thought.
The mad had set up fetish objects that could be destroyed by those with an animus against anything they disliked. And then, to his horror, it became institutionalized so the destruction was complete and nothing excellent emerged from those captured by the animus.
What was liberation? And what was the repression of what one hated as a symbol of their suffering?
During the dreaded time everyone forgot the simplest question. "What do we do with all of this wonderful freedom? What do we do with all of these wonderful objects? What do we do with all of the wonderful resources? What, finally, is the positive use of freedom to lead to the continuity of freedom and, beyond that, new worlds connected to the free attributes, free instruments, and free combinations?"
Perhaps the hour of dread started one happy morning when he abruptly asked himself, "Where will human madness take us today?"
And the worst pessimism's : Success ruins freedom rather than makes it better. The society was filled with crazy fantasies and had the terrible idea that it could create and destroy reality without consequence. "Perhaps it has entered a new epoch not yet named." It didn't like pessimism in the middle of its happy shopping sprees. And, he noted, it was true that any irritation that used to bug people in the past could be whisked away with a credit card.
Early on, an anti-myth had appeared out of disgust for reality. It was directed against the progress of society and the integrity of the individual. It had boxed itself into making the present the myth, something impossible to do. Therefore, for a time, bankruptcy, emptiness, the fallow dominated the fecund. There was no enrichment without the ability to reach back and travel through past generations. Without that enrichment there was only energy that, like the energy of a machine, was dangerous without a wise mind behind it. The perfect image for this sort of culture was the drunken teen-ager behind the wheel of a car believing he is the freest of the free.
"I have only one obligation," he said to no one in particular. And that obligation was to the past that had built the society and to the future that would live in. "I will live as honestly, as truthfully, with as much skill, grace, and love as I am capable of. If the world does not want these things it will make a world out of itself always prepared to do itself in out of its own emptiness."
The whole sad cycle would start again.
© 2005 David Eide. All rights reserved.
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