I feel like a contradiction lately.
I want to withdraw from the modern world — from the intellectual, psychological and spiritual rot that’s leading humanity down an ugly path — but I don’t want to give up the conveniences that have come with that modern world.
I suspect the internal rot which I see around me inevitably comes right along with the technological marvels we’re building for ourselves — and it requires some kind of terrible tradeoff that I don’t want to make. I want to have the shiny technological toys with none of the downsides.
It’s hard to know where to strike a balance. On one side, there’s an Amish-like life of being grounded in the warmth of community and personal connection. It’s the ideal or fantasy of country life — of being rooted to land and a slower pace and more traditional values. On the other side is a post-modernist life of shallow connection with little meaning, but filled with technological progress and urban excitement — along with opportunities for success and wealth and ego gratification.
Like most modern people, I want to pick and choose the best of both, but my heart knows I can’t ultimately have both. I want to avoid making those tradeoffs, so I lie to myself. If I just stick with an empty and meaningless path long enough to make the money to save myself, then I can live a fuller and more meaningful life. I just have to live a life of meaningless daily misery for awhile. Then it will somehow all be worth it.
But that’s what I’ve told myself for years. I’ve known plenty of other people who started out believing the same thing — that they could somehow have it all — but along the way, they all seem to forget that they ever seriously wanted something more meaningful. I’m burdened with a heart that constantly reminds me that the modern life isn’t worth living, at least not for me. My heart constantly whispers that there’s more to life.
In the New Testament book of James, verse 1:8 says, “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” The verse is referring to a man who prays for something but doesn’t expect what he asks for, but the phrase is broad enough to feel applicable here. What’s worse, I feel as though that applies to everyone in this culture who is trying to have it both ways — trying to live a modern life of success while also acting as though there will be a life of love, connection and value at the end.
British writer V.S. Naipaul reminded us what we do to ourselves with our internal lies. He wrote, “The only lies for which we are truly punished are those we tell ourselves.”
If you’ve reached a point in spiritual and psychological development to understand that value in human life comes from connection and love with those we choose to be attached to — but you’re also trying to live according to the script you received from the modern world — you are lying to yourself just as much as I am.
The miserable lives most of us are living is our self-inflicted punishment for that lie we’re telling ourselves.
I wish I had a way to allow other people to directly experience an epiphany once I’ve had it, but I can’t, so these things I’m learning stay inside my own heart and make me feel more isolated. Not only are my words not powerful enough to express most of the truth I’ve experienced, but — more importantly — nobody can experience a truth that is new to him until he’s ready to give up a false narrative that keeps him from understanding a broader and more inclusive view of reality. Unfortunately, most people are very comfortable with their narrow and rigid narratives, so I might as well be speaking to most people in a language from another planet.
That makes me intensely sad at times and it makes me feel very alone.
When it comes to all of this, I increasingly write things lately for which there’s no real audience. I can’t seem to help myself. I feel like an actor performing a one-man play to an empty auditorium, but I feel compelled to do it anyway.
I need an audience for what I’m doing, but I also need a co-creator. I need someone who is driven toward the same things I’m pursuing — and as much as I’m addicted to certain things about the modern world, it’s not worldly success that I’m going after. It’s personal growth and spiritual truth.
For now, though, I feel hopelessly caught between two worlds. On one side is the modern and soulless world which promises me everything but delivers little of lasting value. On the other side is the world which guarantees a more difficult and more complicated road but has the hope of delivering truth and meaning.
Until I fully commit to the path I need and give up on the ego-driven fantasies of the modern world, I’m going to keep feeling like a double-minded man. But it’s hard to commit to that path all alone.