Tag Archives: Philosophy

Life is a Brief Dance in the Sun

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Even stars die – the Crab Nebula contains the remains of a supernova that blew itself up

Our lives are so small. In the West, we take the details much too seriously without seeing the big picture. We are lost amongst the trees without ever seeing the forest.

We never seem to live in the now, always focusing on delayed gratification rather than cherishing each moment as it happens. This attitude holds us hostage even as there are metaphors all around us that nothing lasts forever. Up in the sky, even the universe tells us existence isn’t permanent. Supernovae are testament that even something as seemingly unending as suns also die.

The universe is 13.6 billion years old. We only recently arrived on the scene. And the way things are going, we may soon exit stage right as the H. Sapiens knack for challenging our own survival becomes more worrisome with each passing year when compared and contrasted alongside our exponentially increasing technological prowess. Astrophysicist Carl Sagan knew the danger well:

We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.

If it’s not a diabolical elite sucking the life right out of humanity as it seeks to socially engineer our species into an electronically chipped planet of masters and farm animals, we may yet blow ourselves up with a massive nuclear weaponry at the hands of a psychopathic elite. Who knows exactly what will take out humanity permanently, but with well over 99% of all the species that have ever lived on earth being extinct, we are at best a transitional species that will morph into something else given evolutionary pressures.

We seem to have lost perspective (if we ever had it to begin with) on what’s really important in life as we analyze and criticize without ever taking the time to enjoy ourselves. Unlike Rome, we don’t even seem to enjoy our sexuality anymore in the Anglosphere as latent Puritanism has morphed into virulent feminism. They sure knew how to live back in those days.

Our more immediate ancestors, who had much more difficult lives than us never forgot the importance of the human part of the equation of living. But the modern West is becoming bereft of culture and has lost its passion for being alive. We have made life into a problem to be solved rather than a thing to be lived. Western culture strives for the infinite, as Spengler knew, but this is an impossible goal.

Infinity is going to consume us if we don’t pull back and focus on the temporal.

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“I could have missed the pain, but I’d of had to miss…The Dance…”

La Vida es Una

The West seems to think it can live forever.

We don’t seem to grasp the fact everything dies. We die. Cultures die. Even Earth and the sun will die someday. As the sun continues heating up, the oceans of the planet will boil away in another billion years, if it takes that long. (That’s real global warming, caused by the sun – not man!) The sun will later balloon into a massive Red Giant swallowing the remains of our planet before it fades into old age as a White Dwarf.

We deny our mortality and the life and death cycles on the cosmic stage in a vain search for the eternal fountain of youth. One sees the longing for the infinite in Western culture today as our entire lives have become vivisected from the macro scale to the micro scale. The obsession with living a picture perfect life to sanitizing every last germ pervades the land.

The culture is now focused on problems and solutions rather than experiences and living. Philosopher Alan Watts knew the price of always worrying about every little detail rather than experiencing each moment for what it is:

No valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now… Life exists only at this very moment, and in this moment it is infinite and eternal. For the present moment is infinitely small; before we can measure it, it has gone, and yet it exists forever… You may believe yourself out of harmony with life and its eternal Now; but you cannot be, for you are life and exist Now.

Indeed, a nihilistic mood in the West threatens our long-term prospects.

From childhood we are commanded to focus on the future rather than the here and now. School children are told to plan for college, adolescents to plan for careers, and adults to plan for retirement. Always living for some future moment that never arrives has created a sense of hopelessness and despair.

This poem reflects the situation in a culture that is always trying to get ahead of itself:

First I was dying to finish high school and start college.
Then I was dying to finish college and start working.
Then I was dying to marry and have children.
Then I was dying for my children to grow old enough for school so I could return to work.
And then I was dying to retire.
And now, I am dying – and suddenly I realize that I forgot to live.

Dale Carnegie also lamented a culture that has forgotten how to achieve balance. Americans dedicate themselves to work and career obsession without enjoying the fruits of their labor beyond binging on shopping and eating indulgences. Carnegie wrote:

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.

It might seem odd to those who haven’t analyzed their lives using this microscope when a man decides to abandon the life script everyone else goes by and proceeds to march to his own drummer, living a life of adventures, experiences, and sexual fulfillment rather than imprisoning himself in the McMansions and debt slavery everyone else considers to be the pinnacle of existence.

But if there’s any wisdom to be gained from the study of astronomy and cosmology, it’s that we aren’t going to be around forever, life comes but once, and we should endeavor to turn our lives into a self-creating masterpiece of our own unique design.

Life may be painful and difficult in many ways, but in the words of Tony Arata who wrote one of Garth Brooks’ most poignant hits, we don’t want to miss the dance known as life. In Latin America a popular saying is “La vida es una” or “You only live once.” Maybe man should start living that way since the West has taken his past reasons for living – a loving wife and family – away. He now has only his own pleasure to live for.

For life is a but a brief dance in the sun.

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10 Philosophical Quotes By Oswald Spengler

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Oswald Spengler, prophet of Western decline

The New Modern Man | Spengler’s Decline of the West Series

Oswald Spengler and his seminal work Decline of the West is a perennial favorite at The New Modern Man. More than perhaps any other philosophical work, it provides perspective on where we are and where we are headed to in life and society.

These 10 selected quotes from Spengler have been prescient to say the least. They are as relevant now as they were when they were published a century ago. Spengler’s study of past high cultures’ rise then decline and how our own relates to them yielded Decline of the West, Man and Technics, and Aphorisms.

His civilization model has given us astonishingly accurate predictions, not only foreseeing the current malaise and decline of Western civilization, but given us a philosophy that doesn’t just contradict the liberal, linear model of history, it destroys it.

Spengler deserves more attention than he receives from the current education system. Here are 10 of his best quotes as selected by The New Modern Man:

1. The Common Man

The common man wants nothing of life but health, longevity, amusement, comfort – “happiness.” He who does not despise this should turn his eyes from world history, for it contains nothing of the sort. The best that history has created is great suffering.

2. Democracy

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“Through money, democracy becomes its own destroyer, after money has destroyed intellect.” -Oswald Spengler

3. The Media

Today we live so cowed under the bombardment of this intellectual artillery (the media) that hardly anyone can attain to the inward detachment that is required for a clear view of the monstrous drama. The will-to-power operating under a pure democratic disguise has finished off its masterpiece so well that the object’s sense of freedom is actually flattered by the most thorough-going enslavement that has ever existed.

4. World Peace and the Liberal Utopia

The question of whether world peace will ever be possible can only be answered by someone familiar with world history. To be familiar with world history means, however, to know human beings as they have been and always will be. There is a vast difference, which most people will never comprehend, between viewing future history as it will be and viewing it as one might like it to be. Peace is a desire, war is a fact; and history has never paid heed to human desires and ideals…

5. The Real Motivation of Socialist and Communists

There is no proletarian, not even a Communist movement, that has not operated in the interests of money, and for the time being permitted by money – and that without the idealists among its leaders having the slightest suspicion of the fact.

6. Destiny

We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who, during the eruption of Vesuvius, died at his post because they forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honorable end is the one thing that can not be taken from a man.

7. The Death of Art

One day the last portrait of Rembrandt and the last bar of Mozart will have ceased to be — though possibly a colored canvas and a sheet of notes will remain — because the last eye and the last ear accessible to their message will have gone.

8. Liberalism Vs. Conservatism

For the Age has itself become vulgar, and most people have no idea to what extent they are themselves tainted. The bad manners of all parliaments, the general tendency to connive at a rather shady business transaction if it promises to bring in money without work, jazz and Negro dances as the spiritual outlet in all circles of society, women painted like prostitutes, the efforts of writers to win popularity by ridiculing in their novels and plays the correctness of well-bred people, and the bad taste shown even by the nobility and old princely families in throwing off every kind of social restraint and time-honoured custom: all of these go to prove that it is now the vulgar mob that gives the tone.

9. The City Cannibalizing the Countryside

Long ago the country bore the country-town and nourished it with her best blood. Now the giant city sucks the country dry, insatiably and incessantly demanding and devouring fresh streams of men, till it wearies and dies in the midst of an almost uninhabited waste of country.

10. What History Tells Us

World-history is the history of the great Cultures, and peoples are but the symbolic forms and vessels in which the men of these Cultures fulfil their Destinies.

Some call his world views pessimistic. To his detractors, Spengler only had this to say:

Man was, and is, too shallow and cowardly to endure the fact of the mortality of everything living. He wraps it up in rose-colored progress-optimism, he heaps upon it the flowers of literature, he crawls behind the shelter of ideals so as not to see anything. But impermanence, the birth and the passing, is the form of all that is actual — from the stars, whose destiny is for us incalculable, right down to the ephemeral concourses on our planet. The life of the individual – whether this be animal or plant or man – is as perishable as that of peoples of Cultures. Every creation is foredoomed to decay, every thought, every discovery, every deed to oblivion. Here, there, and everywhere we are sensible of grandly fated courses of history that have vanished. Ruins of the “have-been” works of dead Cultures lie all about us. The hubris of Prometheus, who thrust his hand into the heavens in order to make the divine powers subject to man, carries with it his fall. What, then, becomes of the chatter about undying achievements?

However, rather than become totally fatalistic, Spengler offers this advice for living the best life we can given the circumstances presented to us that our out of our control.

This is our purpose: to make as meaningful as possible this life that has been bestowed upon us…to live in such a way that we may be proud of ourselves, to act in such a way that some part of us lives on. This is our purpose: to make as meaningful as possible this life that has been bestowed upon us…to live in such a way that we may be proud of ourselves, to act in such a way that some part of us lives on.

A life we can be proud of when the end comes is a noble desire, indeed. Facing the circumstances we are actually in, not what we would like them to be, is the essence of masculinity and allows us to plan our lives accordingly instead of living under a Niebuhr-esque trance foisted upon us by the mythmakers. As Spengler put it, “Optimism is cowardice.”

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