The Resurgence of the Real

There’s no doubt in my mind that the modern world is an ill-fitting cage for its human captives. Basic needs for social interaction, exercise, and a sense of connection to the wider universe are left behind in a mad rush for consumption, mindless pleasure, and false security.

Our lemming-like pursuit of immediate gratification and “convenience” has cut us off from the most basic of human needs. Philosopher and author Romano Guardini identified this self-made disconnect as the source of the gnawing fears and doubts that plague modern existence:

Modern anxiety… arises from man’s deep-seated consciousness that he lacks either a ‘real’ or a symbolic place in reality. In spite of his actual position on earth he is a being without security. The very needs of man’s senses are left unsatisfied, since he has ceased to experience a world which guarantees him a place in the total scheme of existence.

James C. Scott, a political scientist and anthropologist at Yale, argues we’re in an Anthropocene Age, characterized by homo sapiens’ disproportionate influence on nature. That influence, says Scott, is not only harming other species, but our own as well. Scott’s main point is that we got ourselves and our fellow Earthlings in the fix we’re in when we started clustering around cities. Sadly, the comfort and security of cities and the nation-states they spawned was a cruel illusion. The hierarchies that profited from the creation and management of the nation-state increasingly demanded control over lives and property to perpetuate themselves. However, those ruling hierarchies were inherently unstable, often breeding foreign and domestic wars to impose or consolidate their power.

Richard Adrian Reese notes what was lost when hunter-gatherers surrendered to the forces of centralization:

Scott focused on southern Mesopotamia, because it was the birthplace of the earliest genuine states. What are states? They are hierarchical societies, with rulers and tax collectors, rooted in a mix of farming and herding. The primary food of almost every early state was wheat, barley, or rice. Taxes were paid with grain, which was easier to harvest, transport, and store than yams or breadfruit. States often had armies, defensive walls, palaces or ritual centers, slaves, and maybe a king or queen.

What to do? We can re-humanize ourselves by better understanding what our bodies and souls really need, and by modifying our lifestyles to meet those needs. The first step, however, is to open our eyes to the addictions that have enslaved us and realize there is a better way.

13 thoughts on “The Resurgence of the Real”

  1. Mike, thank you for this intelligent and clear post. Somehow it is inspiring in spite of the clear signs of where the society has gone wrong.
    I have long held similar views albeit not from the learned positions of
    Romano Guardini and Richard Reese. So clear they are in their thinking.
    A wonderful wake up call

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Addiction to money, food and sex…pleasures that are fleeting. Consumerism drives us to want things we do not actually need. And all the while, all we ever have to do is to breath and live life moment by moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A much needed realistic approach to what is wrong, not just in America, but throughout the world is needed. Our models of what is important, real, and without greed are skewed. Although, I don’t think things have changed that much, human nature, being what it is, with the exception, that now we are ruining our only home – the beautiful blue planet. We have been quiet accomplices to this destruction, by our own lack of taking action against it. We just hoped that somehow it would work itself out – others would stand up for us. And, yes, like lemmings, we just might crash over that cliff. I hope not.

    By the way, I just finished your great book and I couldn’t put it down. It kept me riveted.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. K.D. Dowdall,

      It’s true we wield more power than we know how to use wisely — maybe that’s the definition of being human, I don’t know.

      Thanks you for the kind words! Looking forward to your review!


  4. Opps…I forgot to add the name of the book, “The Genie Hunt!” A great who-done-it with a twist, great writing, smooth transitions from scene to seen, excellent characters, and a very satisfying ending. Great! Karen 🙂


  5. It’s one of the reasons that I believe compels fantasy writers to write fantasy. We want to connect with something that’s missing in our lives. In my case, it’s spending most of my life indoors. I need to get out. Feel soil between my fingers as I weed my marigolds, slip on red clay mud and fall on my butt playing ball with the dog, take the gift of an empty crab shell at the beach from my puppy with a heartfelt “thank you.” All that stuff. I need it, and I won’t find it on my computer, not in the same way. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I couldn’t agree more with your points Mike. For most of my adult life, I’ve felt as if human civilization (especially in present-day USA) has developed into the prison you describe. We’ve become slaves to over-consumption, while at the same time trading our souls for convenience in a never ending cycle of busyness–remaining so preoccupied that we avoid reflecting on the quality of our own lives or the health of the societies in which we live. Living and working in multiple countries on 4 continents over the past 15 years, I’m always curious to see how the locals in each new culture orient themselves to their fellow human beings as well as the environment around them. While I believe there’s a great deal Westerners can learn about forming positive human relationships from those living in the developing world, it’s obvious that we’re all responsible for destroying our planet along with the ever growing danger of extinction of our own species. Unfortunately, much of the developing world is following the American model of development and consumption right into the same abyss. I still have hope for our species, however, and believe that insightful articles such as this can plant the seed of awareness that we all need so desperately.


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