Monday, October 2, 2017

Eldritch Revelations: Our Imminent Doom

[In his published monograph, Eldritch Revelations, the psychiatrist of the infamous thinker Jurgen Schulz wrote that only short fragments of Schulz’s philosophical journal survived his escape from Borsa Castle. But following the psychiatrist’s mysterious death shortly after publication, longer fragments were discovered in his office, locked in a drawer. Here is another of those longer fragments, which the publisher has recently had translated.]
* * *
Lord Irony presides over the decay of God’s undying corpse, the cosmos. Irony is the exquisite subversion of what we intend by what there really is. As such, irony is the aesthetic counterpart of the background microwave radiation that testifies everywhere to the so-called Big Bang, at which primordial point almighty God’s supernatural oneness transmogrified into the evolving manifold of nature to end his mad king’s insanity. There will always be irony as long as the will to live can mean nothing to all that’s beyond that will, to the lifeless particles and forces or to the universe at large. Irony therefore dictates that the more ultimate truth we uncover, the greater our embarrassment, and the first embarrassment is that no elaborate cogitations and experiments are needed for us to learn the existential truth, because that truth hides in plain sight. We turn this way and that, labouring to gain perspective on what was plainly before us all along.

For example, the life plan of our species isn’t whispered to saints by angels, nor is it encoded in any ancient religious text. Instead, our destiny is foretold in the cycle through which each average individual passes, from the magic of childhood innocence, to the arrogance of the adult busybody, to the return to the child’s helplessness in old age senility. For tens of thousands of years, in the Paleolithic Era, humans had no conception of the world’s inhumanity, since in their comparative powerlessness and overflowing imagination they were animists who projected spirits and values onto everything around them. The hunters and gatherers were preyed on by beasts and had no historical memory to guide them, there’s being the longest Dark Age. Every particular child is likewise dwarfed by adults who have all the power, and is filled with fear and wonder at the unknown, which burdens she sublimates with playful personifications. As the child grows and acquires a personal identity in the form of memories which always include experiences of disappointment, so too a tribe, a civilization, or our whole species accumulates a sense of its collective identity, and the group’s members struggle to preserve their self-esteem in part by justifying their pride in the group to which they belong. Thus, adults work long hours and this productivity is diverting if not progressive, allowing most individuals to ride out their mature period of having maximum autonomy, without any thought of suicide despite their having landed since birth in a world of natural horrors. In the same way, populations distinguish themselves with their cultural achievements, and our civilizational and global efforts expanded human knowledge, especially after each individual’s loss of childhood innocence was inevitably mirrored by the irreversible gain of objectivity in the Scientific Revolution, which led to the Industrial Revolution and to the rise of the neoliberal monoculture.  

By losing command over her critical faculties, however, the elderly individual regains the child’s blissful ignorance and so can circumvent the terror of her imminent death with childish nonchalance. The child can’t fathom the existential importance of the billions of years prior to her birth, during which time she was nothing, just as the average elderly person, whose mental acuity isn’t what it once was, is spared the humiliation of being able to ponder the billions of years in the future during which her every particle will be scattered to the four corners of the earth. Granted, this pattern was obscured because prior to medical and social advances, many adults died prematurely. Now, though, retirement homes overflow with the elderly just as kindergartens are noisy with children; both are segregated from the world of ego-driven, middle-aged adults, because the irrationality of children and of the old-aged makes a mockery of the adult’s self-mastery.

As to the terminal stage of our species, technological progress is showing not that we’re entering an age of even more daring expansion, as in the infancy of a science-fictional galactic empire, but that we’ve already lapsed into the indignities of our collective decrepitude. Technological power addicts and infantilizes the mob, bent as it is on endless, self-destructive consumption and for which the inscrutable inner workings of machines are perfectly magical. Thus, the so-called Age of Reason re-establishes Stone Age animism—except that our collective folly isn’t as inevitable as a child’s, since the child can’t know any better; we, rather, have millennia of historical memories at our disposal. Such collective experience only establishes the irony that while we late modernists have the potential to endure with wisdom, our fate has been sealed by mindless hyperdimensional cycles and as our mutual senility sets in and we’re poised to self-destruct after a flurry of high-tech disgraces that consume our higher self and calling even as we seek to consume the planet, we face the demise of our kind.

The child’s boundless imagination, which might have spoiled her by imprisoning her in a dream world, instead carries the seed that devastates her innocence by providing the hypotheses she tests with her experience, thus enabling her to control her life, and so the power of her emerging ego corrupts and disillusions her as she ages. The adult’s Faustian pride which seeks everlasting life is in turn undermined by the very natural world which she’d tamed with her technoscientific mastery, and so she succumbs to old age and expires. In the same way, irony is collectively maximized as the innocence of animistic hunter gatherers set the stage for our shared arrogance and corruption as we became apex predators and dominated the planet in the Anthropocene Age, and as our so-called modern diversions signify only our chronological advancement unto our imminent extinction, not any spiritual or ethical progress. At the zenith of our power, when we seem most like gods, with an internet brimming with knowledge and with myriad tools at our disposal, that’s when Lord Irony must strike us down. Thus, the very attributes which seem to ennoble us—our autonomy, knowledge, and power—are instead the instruments of our destruction.

We know we’ve entered our terminal phase when the alleged adults in charge are asleep at the switch, when our hard-won understanding of how the world works is squandered by governments and when our machines run amok and destroy us with a thousand unintended consequences. Just as the individual adult must succumb to old age and die, our species, like all others, must be extinguished. We clever hominids have a uniquely rich inner life, and so the human individual can serve as a microcosm. Our populations as wholes recapitulate the stages of the average individual’s development, because the herds emerge in cultural forms which extend the mind of each individual who identifies with the group to maintain her self-esteem. Thus, the very traits that define us are currently in the process of ending our reign—especially our creativity, arrogance, and narrow-minded reason. Our technological accretions are the cancer cells that can unseat us many times over. How else could a uniquely mighty and ambitious species, that seems to have conquered the planet and beaten Mother Nature into submission, join all the other species in death except by killing itself with maximal irony? 

No comments:

Post a Comment