One of the many reasons I posted so little here at the Orthosphere over the summer was that in the months leading up to the family vacation that began in mid-June I had been feeling more and more discouraged about the culture wars, and thus enervated. The handwriting was on the wall, the Persians at the gates of the City; and other watchmen on the web were doing a great job. What could I add, really, to the fight, especially given that it seemed foredoomed to go against us?
Sure, I was busier than at any time in recent memory with family and business affairs. But such business had not kept me from writing in many decades.
In retrospect, I just needed that vacation. I was tired. I know this because only a few days into the vacation I began to feel hope again.
It’s not just that I was getting some rest, eating right, tanking up on family, spending time on something other than work, engaged with nature and the weather, and exercising hard again. I’m sure all that played an important role, but it was more.
When you leave your usual haunts for a while you meet, or just see, lots and lots of people. Many of them are not of the sort that you usually see. And all of them are busily engaged in getting on with life. Because they are different from the sorts of people you normally see, and so live somewhat differently, you find yourself noticing how they live – not just what they do (go to the grocery store, take a walk, read a book) but how they do it (what they buy, how they talk, what they are reading).
It was this that I found to be a curious source of hope. Strange, no?
I saw all sorts of people: hippies, yuppies, old folks, young families, college kids, street people, surf bums, petit bourgeois shopkeepers and clerks, tradesmen, divers, truckers, glamorous LA types, cowboys, nervous New Yorkers, body builders, gay blades: the whole gamut. Most of them were Americans, although only about half were Anglos. What struck me was that while almost every one of them other than the old folks was working some sort of obsession – fashion, sex, extreme sport, business, piercings, tattoos (the tattoos were just everywhere, to an astonishing degree), dreads, luxury, street theater, Goth, The Cause, what have you – they were all at the same time almost entirely normal and down to earth. They all had quirks and weaknesses, as I do; but they almost all seemed basically healthy.
I asked myself: in an emergency, would these people behave appropriately, responsibly? Would they do the right thing, or try to? Would they go out of their way to help, or to rescue, or to console? Would they pull together? Would they sacrifice for the common good, as embodied in this or that actual man or woman, boy or girl? In short, would they love each other, valiantly, intelligently, and for the most part competently? The answer: yes; yes, by God, they certainly would.
So I began to dare to hope for a clement future, for our nation, for our culture, for our religion, and thus for my children and grandchildren, as they (God send) arrive. The vicious perversion eating at our culture had more and more seemed to me to have penetrated the muscles of its heart, inflicting a mortal wound, and vitiating my own morale. Observing all these people, almost all of them struggling with depravity of some sort, it seemed to me rather that it was eating at the edges. A mere scratch can mortify the strongest young man, of course; add heroin or meth, or porn or depression or alcohol, or obsessive hatred, or any sort of marginal imbalance to an otherwise hale and healthy life, and you can quickly kill it. But most people shrug off most such insults, and hobble on, both weakened and educated – which is to say, strengthened – to meet the next.
I had been dreading the Collapse which I have eagerly hoped will be a salutary purgation for my sickened patrimony. But now, I rather look forward to it, as more likely than not to be the occasion of a great adventure, in which by shared hardships we all make many new, fast, hearty friends, and forge or renew deep common bonds of loyalty, courage, and virtue.
It is in humble things that I gathered all this wool, to be sure: nothing more than the way a mother stooped to her child, or that a father encouraged his son; the way that friends or strangers (it was difficult to tell) laughed together, or gave each other the time of day. But what more is there, really, to this our joint endeavor here on Earth?