Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Anxiety

Anxiety is a quintessentially social emotion.  When you look at a school of fish or birds in a swarm that turns on a dime, whatever it is that does that is an analogue for anxiety.  Anxiety tells us, in a social context, when we are out of tune or out of step--or it prevents this from happening in the first place. It is a way of orienting oneself within a social world.  You instinctively avoid what makes you feel anxious, although of course your frontal cortex can override what your gut is telling you.

As I said the other day, the culture where an individual belongs is one where he or she is self similar to the macro, and the macro is an expression of who and what they believe.  There is an up and down motion.  There is change, of course, and decisions that need to be made, but all within a known range, using known principles, ideas, traditions, and prejudices.

The tragedy of our contemporary age--and people often speak of this world as in decline, as if we were not perfectly free to make of the world what we want, and thus free to build something better--is that "culture" per se has in fact changed to the point where most of what we have in common is movies, TV shows, and if we are lucky a religious community.  It is very shallow.  Very little can be assumed.

It is not common to talk about views of death, and differing views of death are not considered sufficient reason to form a negative opinion of someone, in what are supposed to be conditions of universal tolerance.  Simply because one of is an atheist, and the rest of us are functional agnostics, that matters not at all.  It's a quirk.  What used to be matters of life and death have been reduced to individual ideosyncrasies.

I am of course in part channeling Bloom here.

But what I would submit is that what I would argue is an intermediate period between global conflict and global peace--at least potentially--is characterized by a great difficulty in calming that anxiety which oriented people traditionally in cultures where they were embedded, nested.

This anxiety--this social need, and the biological imperative as an animal to reduce chronic tension--is an important factor in the splintering of our society along countless lines, into immoderate and largely intolerant pseudo-communities.  To question that community is to risk bringing back the worry, or what amounts to a disease of self, which belongs nowhere, to no one, to no purpose.

So much of life is just hanging on, just continuing to move in the hope of insight, or revelation.  Our world is miraculous--it does speak to us--but far too few of us listen.

I continue to view with trepidation and no small amount of horror how eagerly so many people want to become Dr. Frankensteins and create mechanical monsters which will one day have the capacity to kill us all.  This is not creativity: this is purging.  It is driven by fear, by dissociation, by confusion, and by power lust. 

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