At the beginning of the 2020s we were taken on an unplanned and involuntary journey into the future. I’ve been taking notes. Let’s get equipped.
In these unprecedented times, something something. Discouragement and cope intended to soothe your guilty conscience, conscious of your utter failure when faced with the untraveled quest of your life. Plausible reasons why it would be safest and wisest to hunker down in a defensible position and wait. Probably until you die of natural causes. When things settle down, when the schedule opens up, when the enemy decides to leave us a moment to breathe. Then we move. When the times become precedented again, we will venture forth into the well-lit paths armed with spare equipment and redundant lifelines. We’ll have faith the very moment it’s no longer necessary.
The chaos of transitional periods in history acts as a sort algorithm for those individuals ready to ignore it and press forward. The majority will heed the warnings, seek shelter and peek outdoors in a couple decades. The wilds will be scrounged by the rangers. The pioneers and the outlaws stay outside the cities because that is where the asymmetric opportunity lies. By the time the frontier is closed and civilization arrives to provide safety, the true age of opportunity has long since moved on. As the world lurches unsteadily between soft seasons of comfort, you may be hearing the call to adventure. Careful how you heed it, because that way holds peril. But you may also only find the future you seek down the disused roads. You can probably see it in the distance, sense it on the wind. Don’t expect to find it hewing to the safe paths. Where we are going, few will follow. Safe decades have trapped us in mental and philosophical cities to molder away our lives. Now all that crumbles and we squint into the frightening glare of the spiritual sun. By the time the dust of ages settles, do you want to be setting out on your journey or already encamped in the beginnings of your new home?
The only safe roads lie behind us. The edge of the map is in front of our feet.
I am building a lighthouse to beam God’s grace into the digital realm. Want to stoke the fire?
I. Stop Seeking Normal
Yes of course, easy enough to say. Simply cease living as most humans always seek to live. But at least I’m being consistent. Our present state of things doesn’t hold moral weight. No status quo does. And especially in Transitional Zones of history, the expectation that the “normal” of the past will magically return is an anchor pinning our vessel to shore. We cannot navigate the chaos of the world by constantly seeking “normal.” In fact, if we were careful and honest, we would realize that what we are in fact striving to attain is an emulation of our personal nostalgic memories, especially the ones we have filed under “Past, Good.” These have no guarantee at all of being true as related to what our past was actually like, and are often skewed by our own perceptions and incomplete information. In short, if we try to move into the future with our eyes on the receding horizon, we will perish. I’m not advocating some sort of No Gods, no Kings antitradition. I’m simply noting that the past isn’t going to come back. Seasons of drastic change break the back of the world we inhabited mere months ago. Just because the same institutions and players are present does not mean that the world is continuing unchanged.
If you can cease for a second the psychological work of bending your surroundings to an ever-hazier vision of your past, you will recognize possibility in the swirling vortex around you. There is just as much a chance that we could make something good out of the chaos as that impossible horror will arise. In fact, if you are personally humble before the ever-advancing Kingdom of God, the chances turn into certainties. The feeling of displacement and loss as you watch past worlds crumble before your eyes is a very important marker. But it shouldn’t be the emotional horizon of our life. We cannot shoulder our very real responsibilities if we are busy scrabbling in the sand for the spilled water of our former lives. Welcome to now. What happens next?
II. Start Making a Map
We cannot afford to travel into the dark without guidance. And whether we realize it or not, the future is a lightless and untraveled void. Either we rely on the light we bring along, and our own senses’ dead reckoning, or we resort to the best maps we can find from those who walked similar ways before us.
Or we speak to Someone who has already traveled the paths of the future. But maybe you’re not ready for that yet.
As the moment begins to diverge further from the mental model you’ve been navigating by, good mapmaking skills become more vital by the second. What metaphysic are you referring to as you attempt to make sense of the chaos? Make no mistake, everyone possesses a metaphysic. Perhaps most of all those who argue most strenuously against them. And woe to you if your map is an utter abstraction. Navigating by a kind fairy tale, lies you tell yourself while retaining an ironic corner from which to proclaim knowingly “this is all most utilitarian and Lindy collection of symbols that we’ve found” is foolishness compounded. Your Map and the Territory are going to collide violently when you step outside the protection of your own home and mind. The Territory does not care for you or your spiritually noncommittal abstractions. It is hard as diamond and bitter as gall. Be sure your sin will find you out, especially the sin of cherishing your modern presuppositions where metaphysics are concerned. You see, the Territory goes in every direction you can imagine and some you cannot. You can shield your mind from the horrors of the infinite or quantum realms or Heaven but that won’t save you or make them unreal. The map you’re scrawling as you step hesitantly into the wild had better account for all the dimensions you’ll face.
Maybe mapmaking isn’t the best metaphor to choose for a Spiritualist Orthodox Christian. After all, I am fully committed to the acceptance of a pre-drawn map, appearing out of the past fully formed with little concern for my contemporary philosophies on the matter. But true abandonment of the past’s safety still requires the mapmaker’s art. The Book is holy writ, but the world I experience is often unspoken within the Scriptural pages. Concurrence of points across worlds and explanation of referents are required. Personal notations of hazards encountered will help my own journey, and warn future travelers who follow. The maps I draw do not become enscripturated, but they nevertheless are vital parts of the traveler’s kit. They discipline my mind to refuse the airy shifting unreality, to demand of my beliefs hew to the congruence of a single world. If I attempt navigating the twisting storms of the future with scraps of maps to several contradicting planes, I doom myself. Pay attention to your surroundings. Heed the Territory as it speaks to you. Mark down the visible landmarks so that they can guide you into the invisible realm. Simply meeting each new day and decade without even the aid of memory and meaning is needlessly dire.
III. Let Go Your Psychic Shields
You could accomplish each step I’ve outlined so far while remaining firmly entrenched behind the ramparts of metaphysical tourism. Certainly, the tourist says, these ideas are fine and grand. Beautiful structures to be admired and preserved, priceless in historic and sociological value. Ensconced safely in a glass observational bubble, the metaphysical tourist bobs carelessly past the realms of gods and monsters, never bothering to enquire whether the sights he admires beyond the panes of his prison are mirage or fact. Why ruin the beautiful illusion? Isn’t the real point of it all that the map give us meaning? And if it does, surely the meaning and the map matter less than the effect the meaning reveals in us as we travel along the Territory?
This is, of course, dangerous utilitarian nonsense. And our world knows it, deeper than our minds can reach. Our discourse is filled with the fear of ideas that consistently spawn danger, thought processes in men’s brains that can wreak actual havoc on the world. Who doubts that concepts cross reality on a razor plane, that their truth or untruth is perhaps the central thing that matters? You cannot say that Christianity means nothing aside from warm feelings I receive from it while also saying vestiges of Nazi thought cannot be allowed to survive in the darkest reaches of the internet. Because ideas are not toys to be played with or clothes to be donned and doffed. God gave us minds to conceive of His universe. Our conceptions are not abstract. They matter on infinite scales. All ideas are dangerous, because they are either true or false. Both options are levers that tear realities asunder. If Nazism is true, then it is right. If Christianity is false, then it is an evil beyond the scale of a hundred fascist reichs. We cannot have our meaning and eat it too. Goodness will swallow us whole.
Our hopeless gambit to splash about the edges of the Marianas Trench cannot last. Where we are going, our minds are guaranteed to twist and buckle. You cannot protect yourself from the weight of reality. Please don’t try. Only by remaining pliable and humble can you expect to survive the pressure of realms intruding into your tidy modern mind. We will see wonders, if we allow the turmoil behind us to shove us into the riptide. Don’t cling to the dock and wish for decades more of land-shackled existence. Don’t close your eyes to the fearsome beauty confronting you. Let the possibility buffet you to your knees. After all…what if?
I’ll see you in the Future.
Friend, I am not suggesting at all. You see, I know now. Let us be frank. Our opinions were not honestly come by. We simply found ourselves in contact with a certain current of ideas and plunged into it because it seemed modern and successful. At College, you know, we just started automatically writing the kind of essays that got good marks and saying the kind of things that won applause. When, in our whole lives, did we honestly face, in solitude, the one question on which all turned: whether after all the Supernatural might not in fact occur? When did we put up one moment's real resistance to the loss of our faith? ~ C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.” ~ Genesis 12:1
I am building a lighthouse to beam God’s grace into the digital realm. Want to stoke the fire?
Having been a cartographer for subsurface geological realms unseen I understand the need for the mapping you’ve written of.
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