“From my youngest days I always had the feeling that we were all involved in some great crusade, that the world was a battleground for good and evil, and that our lives would be consumed in that conflict.”
- Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
With those lines, Kennedy begins his book “American Values.” In them, he cites a fundamental conflict. This conflict is at the heart of the greatest stories of literature going back to Gilgamesh: a battle between good and evil.
Welcome to 2020.
In Gilgamesh: The tyrant king, Gilgamesh, does harm to the people of Uruk. The gods make a mighty counterweight to him, Enkidu. At first coming into conflict with one another, the two go on a journey together in search of everlasting life, Enkidu dies along the way, Gilgamesh returns a changed man. American Values: Lesso... Best Price: $4.09 Buy New $10.23 (as of 03:59 EDT - Details)
In The Odyssey: With Odysseus still not home from the Trojan War, a group of young men have moved into his home where they are eating his food, drinking his wine, and courting his wife. He must go through a series of ordeals on his journey to make his way home, where he finally accomplishes a great feat, kills the freeloaders, and is accepted back home by his wife.
In Beowulf: The title hero, a great warrior, gathers a few people together to save another man’s land from a terrible monster, Grendel. He must repeat that task with the monster’s mother who wants revenge for the death of her son. Years later, Beowulf, repeats this feat against an evil dragon bringing terror.
Existential Questions In 2020
Question: Will you wear that face mask today?
Answer: No. Neither with a court order nor a drawn gun will that fear mask touch the hallowed land of my face.
Question: Will you close your business ?
Answer: No, in fact I’m ready to take on the extra work of those who have foolishly closed their own businesses and who have carelessly sent their own employees home to face eviction and destitution. Some may shrug as they do this saying “I had no other choice,” as they try to deflect their own responsibility for themselves onto another. Shame on them.
Question: Will you hide in your home?
Answer: No. I will be more a part of the world than I have ever been and when it suits me, I will be more in touch with my inner terrain than I have ever been. Some may instead explain “Unfortunately, that’s the law, and I always follow the law,” as they mistakenly apply the word “law” to describe what is essentially a press release from a mayor‘s office or some other minor pettifogger with a sinecure calling for lockdowns. Again, this is but the deflection of personal responsibility onto another. It is the avoidance of life, for to know life comes with all the bold pain your actions have earned you, as well all the bold joy your actions have earned you.
Don’t be distracted by those around you, just because we live in an age that abhors the slightest hint of the negative, that obsessively socializes and mitigates risk, rather than embracing it as part of a well-lived life in contact with reality. Don’t be like them. Embrace responsibility.
It was never about them. It’s always been about you. To pretend it is otherwise is to distract you from what matters. Gilgamesh: A New Engli... Best Price: $2.30 Buy New $3.76 (as of 03:59 EDT - Details)
Your individual action matters.
In a time of dichotomous good and evil, the greatest acts are those that appear the most mundane. It is in an epic era where such mundane acts have the power to change the world.
What You Need To Be Convinced Of
It is in convincing you that your acts are mundane, that the greatest victory over you is won, that the little details of your life are inconsequential, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Stretching back to Mesopotamia, this is the story of the literature of the West: that your actions matter, that your journey in life matters, that everything rests on them.
When we pull this through the individual expression of the troubadours of the pre-Renaissance, when we pull this through the notion of natural rights that has come in dribs and drabs over the course of time, we come to see every man is a sovereign, if he will make himself so. The gifts are given to us. We have the free will to accept or deny them, even in the lulling personal disarmament of the modern era in which man rejects religion more than ever and in which he needs a dose of theology around free will more than ever.
In the land’s east of Mesopotamia, the one they called the great one, “Mahatma,” is paraphrased as saying ”Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It is in fact the only way the world changes.
One person at a time is the only way the world changes: by you changing you. No one has the ability to change another. To try doing so is a fool’s errand. But yourself you can change. You are the only one you can change.
In yourself, you have the potential to alter the course of the world as you know it.
It doesn’t mean the world revolves around you. It doesn’t mean everyone must drop what they are doing to serve you. It means that the seemingly minimal impact you have on the world by being the absolutely best you can be is far more impact than you realize. You must therefore always try to be the very best you can be as it ripples out into the world in ways unpredictable and immeasurable.
When you write me, and you say “I only wear my mask at the grocery store,” or “I only closed down my business because I was left with no other option when everyone else did the same,” or “I closed down my church because that is the direction everyone else was leaning,” do you think I see tiny exceptions that indicate a reasonable person behaving reasonably in response to the pressures of his environment? The Wanderings of Odys... Best Price: $2.54 Buy New $6.56 (as of 03:59 EDT - Details)
I see no such thing. I see you, the inheritor of all that is intellectually developed in our past, the one who has been given the gift of ages of learning, if you will take it, given the gift of ages of technology, if you will take it.
What do you do?
You refuse to take it.
Those who sow get to reap. That is a law of nature. That is a law of life.
Do you then act to reap with every second you have on this earth? With every one of the too few breaths you will take?
No. You refuse to embrace your role on this planet.
You refuse to embrace yourself as an individual.
You refuse to acknowledge how all human action, and all human change takes place, one person at a time.
And you refuse to recognize the sheer magnitude of your own life.
The myth of our era is that we are all small potatoes and not worth much, that we are all audience members, not congregation members, we are all audience members, not the star of our own lives, that we are all audience members not the only way that life progresses.
This era demands that you believe yourself an audience member, especially in your own life, rather than the sovereign that you will be if you just make it so.
Every little attention seeking peasant who makes the news with some act of sociopathy and the many more who never make the news need to hear this. Only in believing the myths of the era and seeing their lives meaningless would they possibly seek the “fifteen minutes of fame” that we are each allotted according to the emulator of mass production, Andy Warhol. Beowulf Buy New $14.99 (as of 03:59 EDT - Details)
His art is based on mass-produced products that simplified life for man. The products didn’t exist to commoditize man. You can’t commoditize man. The Orthodox Christians — of which Andy Warhol (born Andrew Warhola) was once one, his Rusyn parents having come from the eastern portion of presentday Slovakia, near the sleepy town of Medzilaborce, a town marred by the ugly architecture of communism, but still dotted by the onion domes of the church, the communists long gone, the oppressors who preceded them long gone, the “articular” churches made of fragile wood by edict of the crown, still dot the landscape centuries later — in those churches the orthodox preach the axiomatic significance of the belief that man is not an automaton, a machine, or a beast, but is created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27) and all the splendor of life that entails.
No, we aren’t all here for the fifteen minutes of fame. Only one who accepts man as an interchangeable commodity could suggest such a thing. Every moment in life, every decision, is a chance to make the world a little better than you found it or a little worse. You are truly the star of your life, your every moment of existence matters, and in this era especially, your choices between good and evil matter so much.
The Battle Is Here And Now If You Let It Be
In every moment, you choose to embrace more of you or relinquish more of you. You embrace or you relinquish your birthright. You embrace or relinquish your hero’s journey.
If you say “It’s only a face mask,” you’ve missed the point of every second of your life. There is no “just,” there is no “only.” The seconds count. What you call minutia matters so much that it is all we actually have: the individual acts.
Two men in the West Wing remain unmasked. One man in my home remains unmasked.
And what about you?
What did you do with the opportunities given to you?
Did you squander them?
Did you tell yourself the moments didn’t matter, the minutia didn’t matter, the way that centuries of minor Mephistopheleses whispering around every corner want you to believe?
Is that what you did with the opportunity?
The battle is here, if you let it be. The epic is here, if you let it be. Your life is the battleground, if you let it be. How to Win America for... Best Price: $23.33 Buy New $17.95 (as of 03:05 EST - Details)
You might even win, if you quit being such a coward.
You don’t need a childhood in Hyannisport to know that.
There are no minutia in human action. Every choice is a gift given to you. Every act, the potential to reap the rewards of a gift given to you. Every moment, a chance to win victory, to charge forward.
In the individual act is where that epic is fought.
Your life is an epic. Your life is the greatest story every told. You have been given the gift of living through such a moment.
If you allow it to be so.
Unless you are too busy with other things. Unless you are too distracted to know what’s happening in front of you. Unless you have taught yourself to be too dishonest to be able to live an authentic moment. Unless, unless, unless…
It comes down to this moment. No other. And in a moment, it will come down to another moment. And then again.
That is the great gift we call the present.
In it, the great gift we call free will.
With it, the great gift we call the individual.
That is where the epic battle is fought. That is where the world is changed.
The enemy who works against you can hope to distract you from that basic detail of life, to confuse you, to run you around in circles, to leave you second-guessing, and quarreling, and bickering. Can it always be the oppressor’s fault that you are so oppressible? The Know Your Bill of ... Best Price: $18.15 Buy New $11.69 (as of 09:00 EDT - Details)
The battle is crystal clear.
The epic of our age is in our moment.
The epic of every age, is in the moment, but this one a little more.
It is in the moment.
In the life of the individual.
In the acts of the individual, that one can resolve to not give in to evil, but to proceed ever more boldly against it.
Who’s with me?