Monday, December 26, 2016

A Christmas Eve Epiphany

My rate of postings has slowed down here in the last week due to the holiday and my good fortune at having my parents here to visit. This has actually allowed my mind to work and wander more, generating more and more ideas that I don't have the time to write about. Such is life.

One of those ideas hit me very strong on Christmas Eve. I went with my family and my parents to Christmas Eve mass, and despite my status as a lapsed Catholic agnostic Episcopalian, I felt something very, very strong, even if it was not what I was supposed to feel. Being with my parents at Christmas Eve mass again reminded me of my childhood, when my beliefs were pure and simple. The joy expressed at the coming of the Savior felt very real to me back than. My heart exulted, my spirits lifted, and my soul felt warm.

As I got a little twinge of that long absent feeling, I also began to feel extremely melancholy. For a believer, Christmas holds the prospect that this awful, corrupt, wretched world can in fact be saved. That belief has echoed in so many ways in the intellectual history of the West, even in the thought of those who were non-believers. Marx dreamed of the revolution that would end history and destroy alienation. Nietzsche foresaw humanity moving into a higher stage of being.

Standing there singing the old hymns of salvation I realized that I could only go half way. I do not think that this world can be saved, nor do I believe that there is any moral arc to the universe, as badly as I want to believe the famous words of Dr. King. I think that, as Werner Herzog has said, the universe is indifferent to our existence.

The election of Donald Trump has only confirmed the darker thoughts I've been having in recent years. I am beginning to think that all of the bad historical trends that I have been noticing for decades now have actually converged to create a new, much worse historical reality. Like the Soviet citizens of the Brezhnev era, I've noticed the rot but never thought this meant that the current political reality was going to undergo a revolutionary overhaul. I doubt that the international order will survive the next four years, and I doubt that the remains of the shredded social safety net will either. The police will be allowed to be even more murderous, and the strides made by gay and trans people will face setbacks.

The center will not hold, as the poet said, and no one will come to save us. We will have to somehow find a way to save ourselves.

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