The self is not an isolated atom; it is only a self in relation to others and to the world; it is not a state, an identity, but a locus of interdependent experiences where the external commingles with the internal, a process in which both are modified. It is modern madness to confuse self with personhood. For it spells our isolation from other people as well as the world, cutting us off from life and its flow. The psyche is not merely individual, but the individual is an expression of it, which makes the psyche communal, .incorporating even nature and the inanimate. Therefore our modern psychological diseases are not problems occurring only within us, but we are the site in which what is ill in society and our way of life expresses itself.
To the modern madness we must oppose: myth and poetry.
You will feel happy to work less only if you feel that your work is imposed on you, that it is a bane. But in a world where work is a source of joy, where it is beneficial for yourself and the community, it is nonsensical to work less or more, for work, then, is an expression of your being, and is at one with life, it is a passion. As it now stands, we suffer work as an affliction, and as something that separates us from life and from true community. We are ridden with feelings of guilt if we do not perform and submit to the norms, and to perform we feel that we need to sacrifice ourselves, burning ourselves on the altar of the work-god.
If the commandment that the Oracle of Delphi once gave to Socrates was to “Know thyself,” then, it seems to me, the commandment the Modern Oracle is giving us is to “Forget thyself.” Any philosophical or religious inquiry being nonsensical in a capitalist/technological age, what remains is the pragmatic use of the moment, whatever life is alloted to us, without it having any meaning beyond itself. But the self cannot simply be forgotten, for it resides on a gruesome rift of anxiety, and this is solved – the awareness of the self is snuffed out – by its constant dilution in pleasure and busyness. One must always be busy, never have a moment to sit with oneself. Solitude, in the modern age, becomes the ultimate anathema, the unforgivable sin, for it is a sign that one still considers his self, still has a self to cultivate and know. And yet, though in constant company, though constantly on the go, in the deepest sense, we have never been more alone, more secluded, and more without the ability to articulate our deep isolation, which we must constantly deny.
We birds of solitude are now few and far apart scattered across the wilderness, and our songs do not reach other’s ears. We converse with past and future ages, and shield ourselves from the constant noise surrounding us. We pity humankind, for its soul has never been more lost, rootless and perturbed. There is no meaning in their eyes, only a constant dizziness hidden with a smile, a photograph filter.
For most people a good life is one that is eaten up by work, and which fruits are the pleasures and sense of power and prestige that that work provides. This is the modern ideal and promise, a life of work and spiritual vacuum.
What does modernity say? You are nothing if you are not seen; you are a commodity, wholly made for sight; your value lies outside yourself, in being seen; the image is your god.
Man will not rest until he has transformed the last bit of nature into an economic resource for consumption, and thereby killed himself as well as the rest of nature. Perhaps technological capitalism is nothing more than a long process of suicide, deprived of any self-control or spiritual mastery.
This compulsion to buy ever new things, not out of any need, not because the newly acquired item is better, but because this allows us to project a better image of ourselves, and gives us a psychological satisfaction (that we fit, that we ‘are‘) — is at the heart of what consumer driven capitalism is all about.
It is not having or possessing in itself that satisfies us, but the image that, through this having, we are able to project to others, is what we ultimately seek. Advertisers did not so much create this need as exploit it, and therefore amplify it. We are, each of us, an “influencer.” But the questions is: at what point does the image we project of ourselves meet with actual life, with the reality of our emotions and intellectual capacities, with the sum of our life and its potential?
To be is not so much to have, but to be able to project the image that fits, the image that insures our identity and social standing and recognition. But it is a mirage we are only attaching ourselves to, an illusion. We are nothing more than a whiff of smoke that the softest breeze will dissipate.
Contemplation has always had to battle against the values of the market, but in no age did these values reign absolute as they do today. They are upheld religiously — and therefore, invisibly — and have sneaked in to transform every institution and discipline, including that of philosophy, from the ground up. In addition to having made the life of man uninteresting and small, they have also made him increasingly stupid. Soon he will have to relearn his most basic skills — seeing, hearing, reading, thinking. They never allow him a moment’s rest as he is constantly pushed to perform and produce. They are the ultimate tyranny, seen by none, upheld by all.