When I form a picture in my mind of a Buddhist intoning “ommmmmm” as he/she/they meditate and then I form another picture of a Modernist speaking the word “progress,” I kinda get a similar vibe. The ideal is being sought. It is the sense of the transcendent being invoked. It is that act which connects life to the really “real” – that by which meaning is sought. One seeks to empty the vessel of thought that it might know the good of being fully aware, the other seeks to avoid the obligations of the past that they might know the good of unfettering their present. Enlightenment/Progress.
So many of the endeavors of we humans are not covered by what we would call, in the lower animals, “instinct.” A caterpillar builds a cocoon because he is a caterpillar and that’s what they do – mechanistically and without reflection. I suppose there are some naturalists who might contend that our more complex actions are just a fancier version of the same impulse.
I spoke with a friend today who has a child in their twenties who is typical of his generation. They have rejected the values and goals of my generation and have decided accomplishment is not all it’s cracked up to be. It is almost a point of pride to discuss accomplishment in derogatory terms and snide phrases. As with my generation, the universe remains singularly unimpressed. Time marches on and the one instinct that I do not doubt we have, meaning, continues to call out to us. Where do we turn to get started? Most of what we know is taken upon some authority and even those great ones among us stand upon the shoulders of past work and effort. We humans must store and pass on what knowledge there is. This is our “progress” given the finite lives native to our specie.
So, on the one hand, the past is littered with failure, hypocrisy, and ignorance. On the other, who among us would have reliable food, clothing, shelter, art, philosophy or anything else we enjoy except that the past handed them to us. There is no culture out of nothing. The Modern man decries the failings of the past and then partakes of her bounty at every turn.
The Modernist project continues to preach that the past is not a reliable guide to the present and with such a sword hacks the umbilical cord of natural continuity. It would only take one generation’s total adoption of this madness to plunge us into night.
What is the future of the past?