Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | August 23, 2008

A Contrarian View: Through a Dark Glass Brightly

Roughly a month ago, in that thing I do next to the parking meter that looks like my desk, I struggled through the usual incantations and recitations I smoke over in putting together the quarterly epistle to clients. Always seems that to be a lot more in the discard pile rather than the keeper column as I work through the “stuff” that’s driving the Borg’s latest passions to whatever edge it’s on.  And  like Lake Woebegone where all the children are above average, we somehow seem to think we can all  be on the cutting edge without getting cut, but in truth, someone’s got to get the worst of it. Now may be our time for a while.

Yes, those of us who still do those things “no one wants to do anymore” –  like work – often find ourselves wondering whether we’re lunch meat from a prehistoric age… just some Raptor’s leftovers; or whether there really is a future for us as more than lighter fluid.  ‘Course we’d prefer to think of ourselves as Premium Grade or Jet Fuel… but it’s more like “cheap gas from the Quickie Mart” . Least that’s how we sound once the  power and budgets of the large institutional machines have driven  home their messages in long hard campaigns aimed at our prospective customers, governments, and anyone else who will listen… at times it even seems as if they’re right and we ought to throw in the towel. Many have decided that Kevin Brownlow’s note of the silent film era applies more generally…  perhaps the “Parade’s Gone By”.

So in a word or nine hundred, times have been lean though most wouldn’t know it: Borrowed money, borrowed time, and borrowed lives have covered the cost. The smoke and mirrors have helped make it seem as if we’re livin’ large rather than largely beyond our means. More than that… our meaning, our moral fiber, and virtual reality has been discounted, depleted, offshored and – bleakest of all  – our seed corn  sold for feed.  Like Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her family’s stay in the north country as they neared startvation… well… this is serious. I can tell you… I have never contemplated writing a darker letter in my life. Checkov read the first draft and shot himself four times. Okay, he always did that or let someone else or was just trying to wing me one… but…never mind.

The key is I tore it up and went with:

Notwithstanding Chicken Little and a sky ’bout six inches off the ground, we tend to believe the news is set to change for the better. Surely the current run of gloom and doom has served someone’s purposes, but it’s starting to get on our nerves…

Besides the fact that it hasn’t gotten better yet, the dark energies seem stoked, and  I actually had to explain to my partner “who the heck was this guy Chicken Little.”… I mean… uh… I dunno…. what can I say other than that I believe sincerely at a very deep level and beyond the tenor of the economic and market sense in which I was writing, beyond my time here and now in the smallness of my life… that “things” really are going to change for the better… and not just modestly, nor just for a while… but an extended period, and in a very big way. And my reasoning is… well … as simple as this: If everything is as dark as it seems, it can only get better. And frankly… I can’t imagine worse. Okay I can… but mostly “worse” involves short-term stuff like wars, mayhem, and not breathing . These sorts of things tend to hasten reversals. And as my grand daddy used to say, “Smart money never bets against the American people.”

So while I know this sounds incredibly naive, pie-eyed and in fact like the vapidness of Time Magazine 1990’s article decried in Peter Kreeft’s “Winning the Culture Wars” as short on specifics…  and without differing from Kreeft’s earlier criticism, I simply see among our young precisely what he suggests as the source of renewal. So I’m increasingly confident our path is shifting on to the right track.. and would even extend the notion to include suggesting that the whole bother about secularism, moral decline, and what-not is over-wrought as well. Yes, it’s 100% on the mark and valid in terms of its observation and in measurement, but not in terms of expectation. Trends do not continue indefinitely in one direction. There is only one unstoppable force… only one immovable object… and last I checked, this ain’t it. These factors are not history, but part of history.

“This hot spell will pass, in the meantime, I’ll just chill off next to this glacier” said the Wooly Mamoth.

Bear in mind that any trend’s momentum still carries a blow-off well beyond the point of maximum thrust as it decelerates before reversing course. So there could still be plenty of exposure to risk, damage, and loss in the interim. We are not out of the woods. But the build-up is over. The unknown base is increasingly visible. And on this ground and from this level, we can build for another day. And build we will…. if we begin to work for it rather than bemoan a day so long gone no one remembers what we’re talking about.

Fact is, I’d suggest the building has been going on for some time through our ignorance and inattention. The foundation has been laid a long time ago. And though much continues beneath the surface, the future will increasingly see a different day. It will be far different than those celebrating what they think is the triumph of a God-free future … and it certainly won’t be free from oppression and all the ills they mistakenly assign to a God-soaked past. It’s important to hear the silence. It literally thunders… but many prefer not to hear, and will not easily yield without a fight. Surely there is no guarantee that the new era will indeed be an Orthodox Christian era… but it may well be amenable to it if we do our part. That part hasn’t always been “fun” or pretty, but it is still our part, and an honor to have the chance.

And though the chance may already be here, it remains for now, unseen. Think positive, and hang in there… and be ready to step up to the plate.


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