You Are Not Alone
In a lonely time, do not forget the communities you are a part of or the people who share your dreams.
You must remember you are not alone. It can be profoundly alienating in a time of homogenization—of culture, of public opinion, of geographic distinction—to disagree with, or even only to question, what you see and hear all around you. Humans are social creatures. We want to belong and tend to conform. It takes only a little bit of humility or plain old perspective to wonder, when all around you people point to a bent line and say it’s straight, whether you might be the one who lost it. It’s a lonely feeling. Can you ask your neighbor if they’re sure? Should you?
Economics, media, the advance of science, a technological worldview, a spirit of reason—people have plenty of ways to talk about the origins of modern mass society. But the result is clear, a totalizing and suffocating regime. Sometimes it wears the mask of the security state: waging wars, managing public health, administering regulations, keeping you safe. Sometimes it claims to be no state at all: just finance, entertainment, education, information, here for you, and here for your choices, for your freedom to consume. Sometimes, like right now, the past year, the distinction blurs too obviously, so that everyone has the chance to see that two faces sit, Janus-like, on one artificial body. Don’t worry about your eyes; I see it, too.
Like everyone else in this viewing party, you’ve seen some parts longer than others. You used to feel like the odd one out for just a couple things, and it was all pretty explainable; you went to a different church, or a different school, or came from a different part of the country. But you’ve watched the strangeness grow. Fewer things make sense, or make sense in a good way; stuff adds up but seems to add up to something unsettling. Meanwhile, the faces next to you nod along: the bad old days of 2014 are long behind us; the retrograde dark age of 2008 is a dim memory; we toppled a dictator with a free and fair election; things are getting better.
But remember this is a viewing party; you’re not alone on this wild ride. There are Americans across the country like you. There are people around the world who feel and have felt as you do, who think as you think. The dead, history, and long-gone civilizations, laugh with you at our contemporary self-importance. And things are not without hope. The TAC community is growing and healthy. Classical schools carry on. Churches find that God’s goodness is greater than fear of disease. Despite the chaos of January 6, and the apparent imprudence of persisting to question what no one is supposed to question, last month Sen. Josh Hawley had his best fundraising haul since before his election, as small-dollar donations poured in. You may not agree with him or them, but, still, it’s another sign it’s not just you. If the right things slip, if you are ready to be responsible, if we’ve been building lives upon permanent things, then someday we will steer again. But put not your trust in princes.
However ready you are to be on the outs, to accept that you are, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s exquisite words, part of a “long defeat,” do not despair. You need only keep a candle lit; it has been dark before. We have been pioneers, and if the candle should be snuffed out we can, explorers again, navigate by the stars. You are a human being, bearing the image of God. Remember that. And remember also that a system which, for convenience, celebrates division and yet designs to flatten all that is distinct, to dampen the spirit, to shrink the heart, to cool the blood—it will lose. Eventually, the machine will break before the long press of those who receive their inheritance gladly, hold what is best in it with gratitude, and transmit it to posterity with grace. There are too many of us. There will be too many of us.