The social consequences of this enormous change are hard even to fathom, much less analyze; the consequences have affected labor, privacy, interpersonal ethics, and virtually every sector of the modern economy. As plenty of others have noted before, the relative lack of deliberation and consideration that have accompanied the shift—the degree to which it is simply assumed to be positive and benevolent—should be shocking and alarming. But since my subject here is journalism, I’ll simply focus on that as an example. There is very little evidence the enormous effort invested to keep internet media up to date with the latest tech trends has changed much for the better. The media itself is inside a reality-distortion field where ever-increasing speed and fragmentation are somehow seen as positive. But take a single step outside it and the picture changes drastically. Delete one of your social media accounts, or simply go on vacation for a week, and you will be shocked how little any of it matters. For most people most of the time, flipping through a newspaper once a day—even once a week—is enough to provide a basic level of information about what’s going on the in the world, little of which affects them anyhow. But the internet media now operates as if its mission is to provide 24-hour infotainment. I honestly believe their time would be better spent reading books, watching movies, or spending time with their friends and family than “consuming” “content” from “social.” In case you’re wondering, that is how the people who make their money throwing “content” at you talk about it.
That odd capacity for destitution, as if by nature we ought to have so much more than nature gives us. As if we are shockingly unclothed when we lack the complacencies of ordinary life. In destitution, even of feeling or purpose, a human being is more hauntingly human and vulnerable to kindnesses because there is the sense that things should be otherwise, and then the thought of what is wanting and what alleviation would be, and how the soul could be put at ease, restored. At home. But the soul finds its own home if it ever has a home at all.
To be a teacher was an excellent thing. Those vacant looks might be inwardness. The young might have been restless around any primal fire where an elder was saying, Know this. Certainly they would have been restless. Their bodies were consumed with the business of lengthening limbs, sprouting hair, fitting themselves for procreation. Even so, sometimes she felt a silence in the room deeper than ordinary silence. How could she have abandoned that life? For what had she abandoned it?
Marilynne Robinson, Home
Now we are able to rejoice that we are saved not through the immanent mechanisms of history and nature, but by grace; that God will not unite all of history’s many strands in one great synthesis, but will judge much of history false and damnable; that he will not simply reveal the sublime logic of fallen nature, but will strike off the fetters in which creation languishes; and that, rather than showing us how the tears of a small girl suffering in the dark were necessary for the building of the Kingdom, he will instead raise her up and wipe away all tears from her eyes – and there shall be no more death, or sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain, for the former things will have passed away, and he that sits upon the throne will say, “Behold, I make all things new.”
There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.
I feel sometimes as if I were a child who opens its eyes on the world once and sees amazing things it will never know any names for and then has to close its eyes again. I know this is all mere apparition compared to what awaits us, but it is only lovelier for that. There is a human beauty in it. And I can’t believe that, when we have all been changed and put on incorruptibility, we will forget our fantastic condition of mortality and impermanence, the great bright dream of procreating and perishing that meant the whole world to us. In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. Because I don’t imagine any reality putting this one in the shade entirely, and I think piety forbids me to try.
The mention of Feuerbach and joy reminded me of something I saw early one morning a few years ago, as I was walking up to the church. There was a young couple strolling along half a block ahead of me. The sun had come up brilliantly after a heavy rain, and the trees were glistening and very wet. On some impulse, plain exuberance, I suppose, the fellow jumped up and caught hold of a branch, and a storm of luminous water came pouring down on the two of them, and they laughed and took off running, the girl sweeping water off her hair and her dress as if she were a little bit disgusted, but she wasn’t. It was a beautiful thing to see, like something from a myth. I don’t know why I thought of that now, except perhaps because it is easy to believe in such moments that water was made primarily for blessing, and only secondarily for growing vegetables or doing the wash. I wish I had paid more attention to it. My list of regrets may seem unusual, but who can know that they are, really. This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.
There’s a lot under the surface of life, everyone knows that. A lot of malice and dread and guilt, and so much loneliness, where you wouldn’t really expect to find it, either.
It must have satisfied even the giant hunger of the soul of a lover or a poet to know that in consequence of some one instant of decision that strange chain would hang for centuries in the Alps among the silences of stars and snows. All around us is the city of small sins, abounding in backways and retreats, but surely, sooner or later, the towering flame will rise from the harbor announcing that the reign of the cowards is over and a man is burning his ships.
G.K. Chesterton, “A Defense of Rash Vows”
The reign of the cowards is over.