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Facing the Challenges of the Coming Age

William Berrett said it well, as he often did: "Habit and routine are great veils over our existence. As long as they are securely in place, we need not consider what life means; its meaning seems sufficiently incarnate in the triumph of daily habit. When the social fabric is rent, however…"
    The Age of Enlightenment laid the foundation for modern Western civilization. In many ways it shaped the way we think, our perception of the world, our optimism for progress and dependency on science. Western nations, and those that followed in its wake, have reaped many benefits and advantages from that transformative leap of consciousness. It truly changed the world and carried the bulk of humanity into the Modern Age.
    Unfortunately, all that confidence and optimism came with a price of philosophical naiveté. The West, fixated on its rapid advancement of knowledge and technology, saw itself as a juggernaut of progress that could do no wrong. Thanks to capitalism, economies grew, nations jockeyed among themselves to dominate the field, and a cultural hubris settled across Europe and the Americas. The result of that hubris, a pride that lacked both wisdom and self-understanding, was the otherwise unexplainable outbreak of World War I. Many believe that World War II was merely its unfinished continuation.
    The shocking atrocities of these wars stopped everyone in their tracks. They should not have happened. Leaders should have known better. Their aggressions made no real sense. The Age of Enlightenment would not have countenanced these terrible wars, and yet the cause was somehow related. Western Europe has never really recovered its confidence from the suffering and guilt it had to bear. While the United States (a late-comer to both wars, and separated by an ocean from the atrocities), retained much of its hubris and optimism, it remains vulnerable to making other serious mistakes, such as trying to force Western values on Middle Eastern cultures, and interfering with their politics. The severity of these errors remains with us today, with no end in sight.
    
Existentialism arose in response to these massive European wars. It declared that Enlightenment ideals were too bright, too blindly optimistic, and overly obsessed with reason (which it still values, of course, but not to the exclusion of the rest of the human psyche). Intoxicated by its own progress, the Enlightened West had ignored the darker aspects of human nature, which tainted everything that followed. The moral rationale of capitalism became infected with greed. Power flirted with exploitation. Equality was something to be judged against local prejudices before approval. The cold, objectivity of science, with its disapproval of traditional knowledge, was seen as a threat to the spiritual needs of many religious people. In many places, the two are now in conflict, contributing to non-action on climate change.
    
For the individual, it meant inheriting a spiritual deficit, felt, somewhat debilitating, but difficult to define. It also meant living in a culture that could only meet superficial needs. For many, the answer to this inner void was to ignore it, filling time with distractions that inhibited human potential, which technology and the entertainment industry were more than willing to supply. The spirituality once sustained by our relationship with nature and religion was largely replaced by an avalanche of material benefits, and the transformation of life toward artificiality.
    
Existentialism tells us to courageously face this spiritual deficit, no matter how painful, and understand its cause. The only way to repair the situation is to replace what was lost with something comparable.
    
Chivalry-Now attempts to do this by setting humanity back on track from where it left off. It defies the sterile, impersonal, mechanistically-inclined nature of modernity with the romance of a bygone age, while maintaining the very real benefits of materialism. It does this by reclaiming the combined momentum of both reason and conscience, beauty and science, community and individualism, progress and tradition - for they are all part of the human condition. Each plays an important role, and should not compete with one another for dominance.
    
For humanity to be complete, to reach the goal of authenticity, it must recognize and honor every aspect of its nature, even the darker aspects, which wreck havoc when ignored.
    
The coming age, if we are blessed to have one, will, no doubt, like others before it, be a reaction to the preceding age, the one that we are in. While much of it will be spontaneous, it should also be driven by necessities caused by previous mistakes. We have the intelligence. We see the deficits. We fear the unknown where we are heading, for it seems to have less and less a place for humanity, in its fullness, to survive.
    
As William Barrett explained:

"Modern life has departmentalized, specialized, and thereby fragmented the being of man. We now face the problem of putting the fragments together as a whole."


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