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Life at the end of the world
Strange times we live in, wouldn’t you say? It didn’t used to be this way...or at least we never noticed…or at least if we did, we could ignore it. Before 2020 cracks in the edifice of our society and institutions were visible for those who wanted to see them. After 2020 entire sections of that edifice have fallen away and revealed, to even the most aloof or willfully ignorant, deficiencies and fissures that affect everyone and everything. We all feel that we are at a moment in time and space where things will suddenly change, an inflection point.
We’re on edge. Everything seems to be moving at a dizzying speed that is simultaneously exhilarating and sickening. There is as much potential as there is uncertainty. It’s all so disorienting and frightening and exciting. A carnival if you will.
In this alluring yet entirely uninhabitable place, nothing is as it seems. Life is a masquerade. Dreams are counted as wisdom. Institutions are hollow. All choices goad the participant to join the inverted stupor. The dancing colorful lights are the fires of self-immolation. If you are attentive, you can observe the shrinking influence of those fading lights. Those who slip between the pavilions in search of the illicit never seem to return.
Listening carefully, you can hear the rituals of old religion playing out in the shadows and the demons of barbarism licking their chops in the outer darkness. The stakes have never been higher for Civilization or for that matter The Church, if the two can really be separated.
For people who are wondering what I’m on about, let me explain. We are in the midst of societal disintegration. The reasons for this are manifold but in symbolic terms the center has fallen, and the margins are filling the void. In plain language we have traded the ways of God for the ways of man. To illustrate this, I am using some of the language of stories and symbols. It is a familiar language to all of us. It also helps us to understand that although the situation seems unique to us, it is part of a pattern familiar to humanity.
It all begins with a center. While a center can be anything distinct, a good center has certain characteristics. A center can’t be too strong or everything implodes into it. It also can’t be too weak or everything spins away from it. As one travels further from the center, things lose cohesion until they bear little resemblance to their origins. The outer limit of what can be solidly held in place by a center is delineated by an edge or margin. An edge then exists as the inflection point where something’s distinctiveness ends and the rest of the world begins (sometimes an unknown world). A wall around a city or the tree line of a forest or even the skin on a body are examples of edges. The center maintains some influence beyond the edge but it competes with outside influences as well.
The margin or edge is the mark of something distinct but there are other things to consider. The space beyond the edge is often typified by chaos as it is an in-between space where multiple spheres of influence overlap and mixing occurs. In-between places have strange creatures such as chimera or hybrids and there is a plethora of strange characters.
There are tricksters, fools, madmen, prophets, ferrymen, those of ambiguous or mixed identity, as well as the guardians of the boundary (who are often themselves creatures of the margin) to name a few. In-between, there is as much potential for death as there is for life.
Often there exists an inverted relationship between those two extremes. For people to survive in this space, that is to remain uncorrupted, they often need to be covered by death, read sacrifice, in some way or be a creature of the margin themselves. In the chaos is where you find the unconquerable primordial monster. Where the hero travels to find the treasure that will repair a broken world.
Moreover, the key defining characteristic of a margin is the lack of a strong governing principle. Civilizationally, it’s not a place for normal folks to live and thrive. Cosmologically, nowhere else will you find a dragon whose treasure you might loot, a piper who can rid the village of rats (for a price) or a guide who can sneak spies over an enemy’s wall. Marginality, with its untamed potentiality, is the antithesis of a center and cannot be introduced to a thing without causing disintegration for better or worse. A little leaven leavens the whole lump after all.
For those with memories that extend before the year 2000 I don’t need to explain how the margin has slowly but surely replaced the cultural center nor do I need to recount how the 2010’s witnessed major breaches in our cultural walls. I certainly don’t need to rehash 2020 ad 2021 as they are fresh in people’s minds, but it bears remembering that monsters ran wild, chimeras appeared and ambiguous figures came out of the nowhere as they are wont to do.
Simply stated, the chaos we see around us is typical of the cosmological landscape we inhabit. The violence, the gender bending, the multiculturalism, the ever-shifting political shiboleths, the economic turmoil etc etc. Moreover, nearly everything that you can describe as “normal” is a product of the edgeworld we inhabit. The seeds of this chaos were sewn hundreds of years ago in the enlightenment. As the twisted plant of modernity has matured it has slowly choked out the good beautiful and true. The poisonous fruits swelling on its limbs are falling to the ground to advance the destruction. Everyone is lost and everything is falling apart. The ship is free-falling off the edge of the map. So what now?
First of all, for the Christian, we exist in The Ark of the Church. Even though all else falls apart we make it by the grace of God. That said, to sit idly by in the civic sense while the world burns and Christ has not yet come is a coward’s game. We too can plant seeds that will survive the chaotic destruction and our grandchildren may yet enjoy those good fruits. To do this is easier said than done but it starts with behaving normally again.
It means rejecting many of the modern notions of what a “moral” person embraces: diversity, inclusion, equity, green, freedom, dating, career, individuality, niceness and especially civil rights. It means getting back in touch with what it means to be human as God made us to be. To do that means wrestling with and embracing ontological truths no matter how difficult they may be (the reality of human bio-diversity being top of the list).
Let me spell this out plainly. If the edgeworld we inhabit says that diversity, inclusion, multiculturalism, racial equality and equity are all obvious and good things it stands to reason that the opposite is actually true. It behooves the Christian to know the truth so they can act lovingly towards their neighbor, the first of which being their own family. The implications of this are far too numerous to detail here but suffice it to say if you, dear reader, are reading these words I will be expanding upon several of the more pertinent implications in future articles.
Make no mistake my friends, we are in a land at the edge of the world, the end of an age, an in-between shadowy place where chaos abounds, and monsters lurk in the shadows.
In this strange and uninhabitable place, the stakes are high, and the days are evil. Our civilization is on the brink of destruction, yet with the end of a thing something new can come forth, if God wills it.
Until we meet again.
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