I am a product of my time.
In general, this makes me sad because I simply don’t like my time. I’ve always felt that way, but in recent months the feeling has become much, much more acute. Weber spoke of the disenchantment of the world, and modern sensibilities tend to imagine this as a regrettable necessity if we are to arrive, finally, at an enlightened world.
They take far too much for granted. There has been zero progress toward enlightenment, even if enlightenment itself is the panacea that it is so often taken for granted to be.
The world has been disenchanted, yes, but only disenchanted. It is not that the end of enchantment necessarily also ends ignorance. Instead, we have replaced an ignorant world and population that were at least at times enchanting with an ignorant world and population that are distinctly ugly, gray, and callously self-serving.
— § —
© Aron Hsiao / 2008
What’s left is nature, or what remains of it as we have known it (the troubling fact being that nature itself is no more vulnerable to us than it has ever been, and that we have known it only in its most human-friendly mood), as the climate shifts, the cloud cover flees to the poles, undeveloped spaces are replaced by consumer spaces, and the rate of species extinction reaches shocking proportions.
But in what’s left of nature as we have known it, there remains some enchantment that we are able to comprehend, even if we try—with all of our indignant and moral might—to stomp this enchantment out as so much injustice.
The deep greens of the springtime flora remain, as does the scent of cool humidity at dawn, the stars in the sky, the breath and rustle of the wind. These things remain. They are ageless, they are biased, they are prejudiced and unenlightened and totalitarian. They traffic, celebrate, and evince laws, hard boundaries, and immutable essences, those things that give such affront to modern sensibilities, as singularly concerned as we are with the misguided value of individual freedom and individual self-identity.
Since time immemorial mankind has known that nature was a brute—now, just when we are careening toward the greatest display of its brutishness, we have lost—or should I say, we lie to ourselves about—this essential knowledge. It obtained until late modernity, at which time the impulse to cover nature over with an ideological veneer more amenable to our adolescent tantrums led to two natures—benign nature, which somehow cures every disease if you breathe just so or rub just the right leaves on you, and which understands how to mend broken hearts, broken societies, broken childhoods, and so on—and “old” nature, the one that used to kill people, which we swept away through some unmentioned means during—civil rights, was it? Or the end of the cold war? In any case, it was during some progressive period that the enlightened power of mankind led nature to reject its former hatefulness and embrace the progressive agenda and our universalist world of tolerant peace and individual striving toward the ability to virtue-signal.
Only this is, of course, bullshit. The former image—that of nature as Buddhist monk—is a fabrication of the Western elite social justice class, protected as they are in their consumerist bubbles. Nature remains a brute. That is the reason—the only reason—we have ever loved it, and at the same time the reason—the only reason—we must so industriously lie to ourselves about it now.
We want so badly not only to escape nature’s definition of us, but in fact to neuter nature as well because we perceive nature as it is, unmentionable as it is in any honest way, to be illiberal, unequal, and unyielding. And at the same time, we secretly long for nature’s riches, which we rightly perceive to be hidden from us just now, but which we refuse to admit to ourselves consist almost entirely of enchantment and individual helplessness—those things that speak to us of our own solidity, unimportance, unfreedom, and mortality.
You know, the concepts that are politically and consciously anathema that the entire West tries, day in and day out, to repress, work around, legistlate away, and protest against.
Nature is, of course, illiberal, unequal, and unyielding. Period. And somewhere deep down, a few people still realize this. That is why, in fact, it is beautiful. That is the very nature, as it were, of the sublime.
We’d do well to learn a thing or two from this fact, if it’s not too late.