The one thing that modern man must believe in, lest he see the poverty he suffers in the midst of wealth and technological sophistication, is progress. It is touchingly naïve, this belief. For it corresponds to nothing in modern man’s personal experience. Modern man considers himself superior to his forefathers because they scratched the land with the horse-drawn plow, while he—if he lives on the land at all, and he almost certainly does not—dredges it up with million-dollar machines, complete with all kinds of gauges for measuring the depth and temperature and acidity of the soil. It will not do to remind modern man that he is far less a user of tools than a product of those tools; that he does not so much develop tools to compass certain cultural objectives, as the tools themselves determine what kind of life he leads, apart from any decision he makes that such a life redounds to a fuller humanity. Modern man “knows” certain scientific truths, such as that the earth revolves around the sun, but he knows them principally because he has been told them by experts; if you ask him to look up at the night sky, it is highly unlikely that he will find a planet there, as any shepherd boy of old could have done. Modern man can go to a museum, or buy a ticket to Rome to look at the churches, or play a recording of Bach; but he remains for the most part an outsider in a world that is all outside and no inside, a consumer in a world that is all consumption. He cannot sing, cannot take up a fiddle unless he has had special training in it. Modern man can click a button and see the whole of the Patrologia Latina show up on his screen; but the few personal letters he writes are childish, his newspapers demand sentences such as would not stump a fifth grader, his magazines are slick and sleazy, and his oratory aspires to the condition of a jingle for selling new and improved soap.
Out again, in again, roundabout, begin again
October 18, 2011 by joyfulpapist