"Beyond the fiction of reality, there is the reality of the fiction." — Slavoj Zizek
A hidden hand sways us from beyond the veil of the unseen. Through the metaphysical purdah insulating our reality from the underlying substrate, we are governed by its secret laws. The ancients grasped the most foundational of these as the Golden Mean, or some variation thereof; the keeper of checks and balances, the taut string of harmonic tension as the self-regulatory backstop of order. When that balance is upset or destroyed, things go haywire.

Reflect: In life, the peak moments of beauty are often cast at the crossroads of opposing polarities or competing tensions. These are the metaphysical zeniths of experience, where nature wells to its crescendoing heights; instances of perfection that are tragically fleeting, and all the more rare, and beautiful, for it.

Take food: some of the world's top chefs insist the choicest delicacies balance on the fragile edge of spoilage and decay — well-aged cheeses, for example. A moment more turns it to rot, a moment less and it is imperfectly unfinished.

Similarly, summer's magical apotheosis in the northern hemisphere lives briefly as the ebbing tide of Solstice has already begun pulling the clock backwards. The days now grow shorter, leaving in their wake the briefly glittering spark of promise, a moment of perfect unity of all the countervailing forces of nature as they rush past each other in opposite directions, briefly overlapping — ephemeral, and all the more precious for it.

So too does life seem to ripen at the nexus where age and youth collide, leaving the purest expression of enjoyment as a transient precarity, hardly to be grasped before it is washed away. We only hit our stride, learning of our make, our likes and dislikes, needs and wants, the beat and crystallization of our confidence and persona, at just the moment when our years begin overtaking us, and the youth for which these consolidations of character would have been the most ready joy-spark of expression is now long in the shadow, robbed forever of its vibrancy.

Nature is fiercely protective of its rarest treasures, in whose penumbra we forever dwell.

It is in this spirit that we cherish all life's ephemeral gifts. The scissures between time and timeliness, created — as if by design — to make us value what had been gotten then lost. The chasm between the 'was' and 'should have been'. To blossom and seize the apex of potential, like an insect gestating for years to explode riotously into form for a brief span, only to die just as quickly.

In every corner we find reflections of these truths: competing natural tensions stringing up the scaffolding. These dualities are increasingly under attack by the managerial elite, the social tinkers and cultural pharisees who seek to cut the ties bridging us to the palladium of our spiritual past, to redefine our myths and traditions and scrap the immemorial blueprints that have guided our instincts since the dawn of time.

The longer it goes on, the more we realize just how anti-nature much of the movements and concepts spawned of the Enlightenment have really been; modernity's cult of progress, a prime example. I recently drew attention to Alastair Crooke's undressing of a pair of central thinkers linked to the movement and its offshoots. He deftly tackles the idea that much of Rousseau's ideology is in fact a fig leaf for rampant de-civilization:
Family relationship is thus transmuted subtly into a political relationship; the molecule of the family is broken into the atoms of its individuals. With these atoms today groomed further to shed their biological gender, their cultural identity and ethnicity, they are coalesced afresh into the single unity of the state.

This is the deceit concealed in classical Liberalism's language of freedom and individualism - 'freedom' nonetheless being hailed as the major contribution of the French Revolution to western civilisation.

Yet perversely, behind the language of freedom lay de-civilisation.

The ideological legacy from the French Revolution, however, was radical de-civilisation. The old sense of permanence - of belonging somewhere in space and time - was conjured away, to give place to its very opposite: Transience, temporariness and ephemerality.
He links to another brilliant Substack piece by prominent professor and sociologist Frank Furedi which focuses on this far more pernicious of telic impulses concealed in the cloth of the Enlightenment's grand liberating gestures and humanistic appeals:

Roots & Wings with Frank Furedi
Woke Is Not The Problem - It Is The Symptom Of Something Far Worse. Not sure if you have heard of the term decivilization. The Oxford English Dictionary defines decivilization as 'The process or condition of losing civilization'. The OED's first citation of this term refers to an article in The North American Review in November 1878. Since that time the term has been rarely used. Why? Because for many ...Read more2 months ago · 105 likes · 3 comments · Frank Furedi
He writes:
Kenneth Clark in his fascinating Civilisation (1969) associated civilisation with 'a sense of permanence'.

He added that, a 'civilised man, or so it seems to me, must feel that he belongs somewhere in space and time; that he consciously looks forward and looks back'. As I noted on several occasions in Roots & Wings, Western culture has adopted a profoundly presentist outlook and neither looks forward nor looks back. The sense of permanence has given way to its very opposite; transience, temporariness and ephemerality.
In his essay, Furedi arrives at something critically important — that man without a sense of permanence loses all stability, his valence to the world:
Throughout human history the sense of permanence served as a precondition for allowing people to dream of the possibility of creating something that was durable and built for the future. Based on the foundation of a shared past societies possessed a form of consciousness that encouraged the attempt to build a temporal bridge between the present and the future.

Without a sense of permanence there is little incentive to settle down, develop agricultural societies or build temples and cities. The prerequisite for the development and the reproduction of a sense of permanence is the cultivation of an organic connection between the present and the past. This civilisational accomplishment is essential for endowing human existence with meaning and for the development of stable social and individual identities. In contrast decivilization flourishes in historical moments when communities struggle to endow their existence with meaning.
It is the total ablation of man, the erasure of rooted instinct, tradition, and cultural mythos. I often use the word 'roots', which I believe serves as apt symbol for 'permanence' and can be fairly interchanged.

What Furedi describes above can be rephrased as follows: if you came upon a ground of very moist, sinking clayey soil, would you build the foundation of your home on it? Of course not; you would know the house would not last, there is no future prospect of it staying firm and upright for the next generation of your children to grow up in; it is not secure, not permament.

The same logic applies to the more abstract and metaphysical categories of permanence. If you know the space you've settled down in culturally has no future which can support the growth of your next generation in the way real culture is supposed to — e.g. by infusing them with generational knowledge that enriches their life's journey, deepening their understanding, easing their travails and times of suffering, etc. — then it would make no logical sense to settle there.

Furedi produces many richly poignant takes, here hitting on the cult of progress so often subjected to my lambasting, which he ascribes to a fetish:
The diminishing of the sense of permanence has been inversely proportional to the ascendancy of the consciousness of change. Today it often seems that if anything is permanent it is the permanence of change. The perception that culture is discontinuous influences the behaviour of public life. This perception is underpinned by the transformation of the idea of ceaseless change into a veritable fetish. For over a century generation after generation were told and believed that their era is uniquely one of unprecedented rapid change. The perception of rapid change goes hand in hand with the tendency to declare previous cultural accomplishments as outdated and obsolete.
In another article titled Will Western Civilization Be Conquered From Within?, Furedi notes an important discovery of his studies: that the chief difference between Western civilization and that of others is its unique separation of Church and State:
My interest in the moral disarmament of the West has inevitably drawn me towards an exploration of the meaning of the civilization that underpins it. Through my study it soon became evident to me that Western Civilisation is different to others in many respects but arguably its most important and unique feature is its centuries long tradition of separating the religious and secular sphere. In turn the separation of these two distinct spheres, and its codification has created the precondition for the subsequent gradual diminishing of the power of religion.
He goes on to note that French historian Fernand Braudel "argued that 'since the development of Greek thought' the 'tendency of Western Civilization has been towards rationalism and hence away from the religious life,'" and that "no such marked turning away from religion is to be found in the history of the world outside the West."
'Almost all civilizations are pervaded or submerged by religion, by the supernatural, and by magic: they have always been steeped in it, and they draw from it the most powerful motives in their particular psychology'.
He further points out how Islam and India are examples of civilizations which continue to draw from the "moral resources" their religion provides them, while it is solely the West which has totally embraced the Scientism and Rationalism of the Enlightenment above all else.

What really happened is Western man merely transmuted the search for the ineffable in religion into the realm of the empirical and rational; in short: 'science' of all types became the new religion, and secular dogma replaced spiritual inward-seeking.

But we'll get back to that in a moment.

Apropos the fetish of change, which is proximate with the 'cultic' obsession with mindless 'progress', we have another incisive Substack which happened to dovetail with my thoughts this week. The Reactionary Feminist's, Mary Harrington, latest article drives the nail home in many of these points from a uniquely regressed-feminist perspective:

Reactionary Feminist
The end of never-ending progress?Initially delivered as the first in the Protopia Conversations series, 23 May 2024 at Ateneu Barcelonès The argument which became Feminism Against Progress began as an exploration of the tensions between environmentalism and liberal feminism. To take just one example: Women were demanding that men do a greater share of baby care from the 1960s on, but me...Read more10 days ago · 247 likes · 81 comments · Mary Harrington
Here, she underscores the earlier point that Progress is just a surrogate, a pastiche of the theological strand. But beyond this rote observation, she makes a fascinatingly novel connection — the cult of progress is not merely the continuation of the theological, but specifically, the eschatological:
Indeed, fact that "progress" could only really be evaluated in the all-seeing eye of a divine being gives us a clue: "Progress" is a continuation of theology by other means. Specifically, the structure of "progress" is a version of Christian eschatology.

This isn't an original observation at all. Christopher Lasch described "progress" as "a secularised version of the Christian belief in Providence". It's characteristically Christian to see history in linear terms, as beginning with creation and taking the form of upward moral struggle that concluding with a grand revelation and the end of all sin and suffering.
It's a breathtaking conclusion because it makes so much sense in, for once, logically equating the utter fanaticism of the progress cult's most fervent devotees: via psychological transference they have projected the West's subconsciously embedded guilt-sin-salvation paradigm onto the scientific roadmap for society's Utopian redemption. It is technocratic transhumanism as revelation and salvation in one: the cybernetic Rapture.
And this is a religious story which does everything in its power to hide the real content of its theology, which is the technological mindset itself. That is, not a set of tools but a relation to the world around us. The clearest articulation I have found of this comes from Martin Heidegger, in The Question Concerning Technology. Heidegger characterises the essence of technology as a mindset, which he calls Gestell, usually translated as "enframing". In this mindset creatures, ecosystems, natural resources and even people appear to us not in their full being, but only in respect of how they may be instrumentalised in order to further our project of mastery and perfection.

Faith in "Progress" requires that we take this enframing mindset as our core disposition toward reality. How else are we to perfect this life except by mastering and re-engineering it? Progress, then, is fundamentally a technological project, and simultaneously a moral one. It is, in fact, is a deeply religious worldview; it's just pretending to be a neutral, scientific, utilitarian one.
But here's where it ties back to the operating premise of natural laws. Harrington's final key observation is made through the feminist lens of motherhood.

She prefaces that she was a stout classical feminist, subscribing to all the emancipatory ideals of post-structuralism — the need to liberate women from normative sex roles and gender constraints, as well as the idea, owed to Rousseau, that we are all naturally separate and independent beings — with no sense of innate mutual belonging — prior to "opting in" to a social contract.

But then, she hit a wall — the overpowering realities of nature's laws snuck up on her, washing away the endless circular abstractions of modern socio-scientific 'progress':
These beliefs ran aground, for me, on the experience of having a child.

I came to motherhood late, at 38. I found it hard, but also transformative. I came to feel myself remade in the experience of relationship with my child and through family life - but, importantly, in ways that felt radically at odds with the ideology of progress.

I discovered that when you love a dependant infant so viscerally you would die for them, "freedom" in this thin sense means nothing. Meanwhile, nearly dying in childbirth cured me of any lingering belief that sex might be socially constructed. But as both a new mother and a feminist, I struggled to make sense of how marginal mothering is to modern feminism. I could not connect the Rousseauean understanding of liberal personhood with my embodied experience of not quite belonging to myself. For inasmuch as my baby needed me, I was no longer free - but as it turned out, I didn't mind!
She's using motherhood to analogize a much broader connectivity, or human resonance — as she later puts it. The same selflessness she is describing can be applied to partners, loved ones, even to society as a whole — it's the idea of community, communalism, oneness: all the things stripped away by the individuation of Liberalism.

She then brings it all together into the key, culminating point:
To be modern, technological, progressive, is to see the world in terms of how it may be used so that we can improve it and realise heaven on earth. Whether minerals, or animals, plants, or other people, modernity invites me to view people in terms of what I may get out of them. But mothering is the opposite of this! I don't care for my child because I have a utilitarian goal in mind, but because we belong to each other - and that makes caring for her a necessity for my existence too.

But this means even the mindset required to raise a baby is in tension with the modern world. Mothering a baby means meeting an absolutely dependent being where he or she is, and seeking to intuit, meet, and shape his or her needs. (This is what is meant by "attunement" in attachment studies.) The philosopher Hartmut Rosa would characterise this form of relationship as "resonance": that is, an encounter with the other in which we are both moved by the experience of one another's being.

But this means mothering is in profound tension with the characteristic mindset of modernity, as Rosa outlines it: a desire to control every facet of existence, and treat life as "points of aggression" that must be dealt with: jobs to get done, problems to solve, situations to control. We can map this, more or less, onto the Gestell mindset described by Heidegger.
This is the subversion of modernity's trick of scientism and its usurpation of the spiritual metanarrative which has guided our passage for millennia. It is what birthed the scientific dialectical materialism of Marx, the cold rigor of Mckinseyianism, and all the other modern maladies responsible for reducing the human condition to a calculus, privileging 'scientific advancement' in the form of perpetual "progress" over that of spiritual development.

Harrington explains how the basic human biological impulses are at fundamental odds with the imposed psychological regimes we're forced to adopt in order to "thrive" in a modern spiritually bereft and anti-humanistic setting meant to turn us all into narcissistically 'liberated' obedients:
My (not very scientific theory) of the dreamy, unworldly state of new-mum consciousness, sometimes condescendingly referred to as "baby brain", is that it's an effect of how unhospitable a world we've created for resonance. As a mother, you feel a visceral need to resonate with your baby; but to do so, today, means travelling an incalculable mental distance from the consciousness needed to function effectively in modernity, to the headspace you need to be in, to attune to your infant and thus be able to intuit his or her needs.
It's tricky to grasp at first because the progressive narrative adopts — or rather, appropriates and co-opts — the stance that the movement is actually all about connecting society through "resonance"; after all, it is 'progressivism' which nobly champions equity and uplifts the marginalized, protecting them from 'hate' and 'bigotry'. This sounds, on paper, like the movement embraces the types of inter-dependence Harrington cites as being so discordant with modernity. But digging deeper, one quickly finds the actual praxis relied upon to foster these seemingly well-meaning initiatives is as volatile and hostile to closeness and family as can be.

Not only does progressivism sow vast divisions, but the radical and revolutionary nature of these forced initiatives often calls for non-complying families to be ripped apart: just note what happens when parents disagree with "gender-affirming care" for their child. Rather than being designed to communalize society, these initiatives are in fact targeted subversions meant to eliminate opposition.

Secondly, rather than promoting a universal style of "resonance" to the fellow man, modern progressivism merely promotes in-group "resonance" amongst the revolutionary vanguard which serves as the societal minority, while conversely pushing for open hostility against all others. This ingrains the movement with a sense of radical tribalism rather than the type of universal human resonance gifted us by nature.

That's not to mention that by pushing humans into the arms of corporations and big socialized government, modern progressivism contradicts its own claims of human 'emancipation' and lofty ideals of individuality: you can't be a free "individual" when you've been made reliant, as neo-feudal serf, on the transactional partner- and allyships of big corps and big government.

The ultimate irony is that classical 'liberalism', which promoted individual freedoms and limited government, transitioned to modern "social liberalism" which promotes its exact opposite: huge regulatory mechanisms to police "social justice mandates" with massive government spending for socialized programs to subsidize the 'underprivileged' perpetual-victim class. And since Progressivism is essentially considered a wing of modern social liberalism, that means progressivism is definitionally illiberal to the utmost degree in the classical sense. It's all about control: forced government measures to create a scientifically-quantified 'equity' Utopia.

Harrington concludes by reiterating the key point:
Then I remember that we live in a world ordered to Progress, which is to say a religious pursuit of heaven on earth, via the instrumentalising and extractive logic of technology. A mindset structurally at odds with a mindset premised on interdependence, and thus on boundedness in relationship.
This brings us back to the chief conundrum of modernity: the rise of unrestrained corporate-finance transnationalism has led to the weaponization of the concept of "independence" for the purpose of enslaving us to the extractive wage labor quota. Almost every "liberation" movement was nothing more than the corporate-state-merger astro-turfed campaign to squeeze greater profits, efficiencies, and ultimately, value from their human cattle. Women's liberation was purposed with doubling tax revenues by un-exempting the other fungible half of the population; much of the 'cultural Marxist' movement was similarly tasked with breaking up the family unit by undermining the father's — and eventually that of the parents altogether — authority to ensure the brood grows into malleable wards of the State.

But the forced imposition of these social regimes has broken the delicate webwork of natural law, upending societal hierarchies between sexes, family members, social roles, etc., all for the scientific and 'critical' deconstruction of any and all tradition on the basis of spurning all that came before.

Archedelia's latest Substack piece hits on this:
In the normal course of human society, you are born into a culture that has prepared the way for you. It initiates you into its language and tells a story of where you came from. It is saturated with meaning due to a chain of begettings that reaches back in time, each generation of which started and grew through acts of love: at conception, and in the ongoing work of teaching, transmission and care. The world is welcoming, in other words. It was built by your ancestors, and they imagined you long before you arrived. They wondered what sort of work you might do, before you knew there is such a thing as work. Your parents may have recognized the echo of sibling or a parent in your face as you sought the nipple. They smiled at you.

This sense of a world handed down in love is interrupted when the basic contours and possibilities of life appear to be ordered by impersonal forces.
In liberating us from the carried wisdom of our forefathers, they've enlisted us in the service of the Leviathanic machine, fashioning a Hobbesian techno-nihilism with Faustian accents. Now the panic of sunk cost fallacy prevents them from making the fatal admission that they lack a workable path forward — instead, they'll plough along, feigning competence and confidence in their Utopian white elephant. But the plan to remold a human kind effaced of its shared remembrance is like sowing untilled, salted soil and expecting a bumper crop. The balances must be restored, lest the world come apart from the compounding stressors of the impending mechanical resonance disaster.

Cast your hand in the river, mystic and unknowable, yet ever-familiar. Feel the flowing breath of life as it burbles past, carrying with it the alluvial essence of restoration and renewal, which speckles the ground beneath our feet with the silt of our birthright. The sun will be receding any moment now; here lie — ever briefly — the crossroads of our eventuality, the temporal flush of vibrating life, as it reaches, arcs towards its infinitude.

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