We are a civilisation which lives by feelings. It’s built into the zeitgeist. It’s also the greatest cause of suffering in the world.
OK, that’s a big call. If you’re a slave in Kim Jong-un’s harem, living by feelings is probably not the most unpleasant thing you experience. You probably try to avoid feeling anything at all.
Perhaps at school your history teachers took a break from bashing up on crackers and mentioned the Renaissance. If so, you no doubt received the Party Line about it – that the rebirth of classical Graeco-Roman culture was an unadulterated good, breaking open the fusty hidebound traditionalism of medieval Europe and birthing glorious modernity with its glorious revolutions. They probably showed you a Michelangelo to convince you. Did you ever wonder though: Where are the Michelangelos now? The Da Vincis? The Donatellos? Was Savonarola right?
The Renaissance did represent a historical turning point, but not for the reasons your Cultural Marxist teachers told you. It was the beginning of the age of the Pride of Man. It is with the Renaissance we see the re-emergence of equestrian statues – powerful rulers posing on their horses. The equivalent now might be a statue in Times Square of Barry Soetoro pointing FORWARD while riding a tank.
Now, a statue is just a statue, but this reveals a paradigmatic shift had occurred. The architecture also changed – gone were the idiosyncratic and bespoke buildings of the middle ages (a very dismissive label for 1500 years of Christian history – funny that…) with their gargoyles and personalized craftsmanship. After the Renaissance, buildings become very rational. Straight lines, symmetry, the use of cheaper and cheaper building materials to enable larger and larger structures. We now have whole cities of boxes upon boxes. We live in little boxes. Everywhere looks the same. No life, just order.
The spirit of modernity can be summed up quite well by Lucifer’s boast – ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt myself above the stars of God’ (Isaiah 14:13). Didn’t work out too well for him, either. Modern man (and woman) will submit to nothing. We are our own temples to ourselves. We are the gods of our own creation. We will feast from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, determining our own standards of morality. Who is God to tell me what to do? Our wills be done.
There is a problem with being bound by nothing though. It is that we are bound to nothing. The power to decide everything means that no contract is binding, no relationship permanent. All meaning is only what we make it. We are Narcissus, able only to see our reflection. Such is the life of a mortal god.
This prevents us from being able to understand love. It has destroyed family, the foundation of civilisation. Love is not a feeling, but sometimes it is felt. Love is a state. It is a condition of being bound, of united with another. It requires submission. This however is heresy to we gods, so we ignore it. Choosing to see only the fleeting feeling, we deny the deeper reality of what love is. In our pride, seeking radical freedom and exaltation of self, we have cheapened love and greyed out the colour in our own little sovereign worlds.
If I had to nominate a primary reason for our pandemic of sadness, I would select the wayward road we took at the Renaissance. When it comes to love, it’s really only been downhill since then.