Tag Archives: the self

(Post)modern obsessions

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Have you noticed how the following themes keep popping up, almost obsessively, in contemporary discourse – in the media, in the public sphere and increasingly in ourselves?

This obsession with sex – and complete devaluation of love and tenderness and commitment.

This obsession with doing – and complete devaluation of being.

This obsession with the intensity of fragmented experience – and complete devaluation of profoundness and resilience and eternity.

This obsession with work and maximization – and complete devaluation of contemplation and spirituality. Of the time it takes to realize that you have a soul, that you are a human being capable of transcendence, not a machine plugged in to churn out as many objects as possible per unit of time.

We treat ourselves and each other as equipment, as products. We apply to beings the logic of machines. We have transferred the maximum efficiency mantra of the technological sector to human life. We have internalized the algebraic depersonalisation, the callous disregard, the flattening subjugation of being to efficiency and utility present in our discourses. We find it OK to behave and to be treated increasingly like predictable robots or like working animals. Like mammals, all dapper and happy to be allowed to act out their basest instincts.

This obsession with Darwinism, with us as little more than physical organisms in biological evolution, this bench-marking against apes, not against angels or saints? This devaluation of angels and saints as melodrama and cheap esoteric – or, even, as oppression. This talk of our “natural instincts”. Nature, our nature, as a new goddess. But should we always make way for our natural instincts? Will that improve us? What will build more character and more goodness and a deeper path to the absolute we secretly yearn for?

(Is something good or legitimate simply because we were born with it? Because we acquired it? Because it is fun? Because it brings pleasure or monetary value? Are we not supposed to transcend ourselves?)

This frenzy of devaluation… No religion, but brand religion. The branding iron.

What is slavery for theoretically free individuals? According to Simone Weil, the disconnect between one’s efforts and their life’s work. (We work, but we no longer have a life’s work, an opus, an oeuvre. We expect our work to be the foundation of our identity, but in fact, so many of us no longer feel like creators. We no longer develop our being in the process of our work. Work all too often feels like odd life-draining tasks under excruciating time pressure, away from the ones we love. It no longer feels like purpose. Just endless busyness. Our work has control over us, but we no longer have much control over it.)

What else is slavery? In Gravity and Grace, S. Weil goes on to say it is the coercion to accept that “reading” of yourself, that interpretation of yourself, which others stamp on you. Having no choice or having only wrong choices. Allowing yourself to be devoured by exhausting activities, and making all this daily effort simply to stay in your current condition – no horizon, no finality, mere survival. Day to day to day. The arbitrariness of how you are treated. The dependency. The addiction.

Any illusion begins to feel real when enough people accept it and internalize it as “the thing to do”. Repeated, it reproduces, it propagates.

This destruction of the human soul…

We no longer recognize the sacredness of our own and each other’s being.

Will the human spirit ever rise against this flattening iron?…