No Time Like the Present
It had to come some time, and there’s no time like the present. Trump’s victory in the US is the continuing narrative of the decline of the Modern Era, and very likely it’s Endgame. All the rules are bent or broken or tossed aside, and instead of being punished at the polls for this, Trump and Trumpism were applauded and rewarded. In my understanding, Trump’s victory represents the denouement of modernity’s “Grand Narrative”, its last chapter, and the full realisation of “the New Normal”.
That which Trump represents, however, is gaining traction almost everywhere — the merely reactionary, the merely recidivist, the “backlash” where what is needed is a self-transcendence, a transformation and a metamorphosis.
In some ways, Clinton would have been the better option in these times simply because everyone was uneasy with her and what she represented. Their ears would still be open to hearing of alternatives to the status quo and the merely technocratic. Not so with Trump. For the next while many ears will be deaf to anything and everything but Trump until such time comes when “Trumpism” proves itself equally bankrupt, as it surely will — and in fairly short order, I suspect.
Heidegger was famous for saying that “only a god can save us now”, and many have pretended to be this salvific “god”. Trump is just another pretender in this megalomania. Ironically, it isn’t a god that will save us now, but disillusionment — complete and utter disillusionment, which is, after all, the real meaning of “apocalyptic”. Trump and his acolytes can be counted upon to deliver that disillusionment despite themselves.
The Great Disillusionment will be terrible — shattering, like the breath of the Void. And into the vacuum of disillusionment — the great emptiness — will flow all sorts of aberrant influences from the Shadow side — a pandaemonium of superstitions, paranoias, frenzies, manias, obsessions and possessions. It will seem like someone has opened the gates of Hell, and they will be right, because that is the paradox of the apocalyptic — revelation, yes, but a shattering one because it is precisely the illusions and delusions that are shattered, and that feels about as welcome as the Black Death.
One set of illusions has been exchanged for another set of illusions, one mirage for another mirage. That’s all. Both will come to Nothing. Both Clinton and Trump, amongst others, have proved only that the Late Modern Era has grown bereft of its originating fount of spirit and is now barren of any and all fecund and generative ideas.
Into the Wasteland: “Ever since Copernicus, man has been rolling from the centre towards X” (Nietzsche). Certainly, this was the remark by Nietzsche that moved Yeats’ to pen his poem “The Second Coming“. For the scientist Blaise Pascal, “X” was the terrifying “Silence of the Infinite Void” from which he fled, a ruined man and in near panic, into a particularly austere version of Christianity. Pascal knew well that this “Silence of the Infinite Void” was both death of God and the loss of soul — the same was to be, later, Nietzsche’s “stare into the abyss” and his forecast of “two centuries of nihilism”. X, as it turns out, is the Great Disillusionment, which is also The Great Derangement.
In some sense it can be said that “Post-Truth Society”, as it is presently called, is also an attempt to save the illusions despite the fact that something inside us already knows they are a mirage and illusion. That’s implicated in the issue of cognitive dissonance and the phenomenon of “symbolic belief”. The illusions are becoming unsustainable and transparent in a most terrible way, and that was already Goethe’s experience of his “two souls” in Faust.
“Two souls, alas, reside within my breast,
And each from the other would be parted.
The one in sturdy lust for love with clutching organs clinging to the world,
The other strongly rises from the gloom to lofty fields of ancient heritage”
“Winter is coming!”, as they say in The Game of Thrones — the Great Disillusionment which is also the Great Derangement. The swamp is being drained, the cup is being emptied, even if we only call this “post-modern deconstruction”. But the empty cup — that’s also the Buddha’s begging bowl or the Christian mystic’s Holy Grail. It’s the “empty mirror”, the emptiness of the soul as begging bowl and empty chalice waiting patiently to be filled and to be fulfilled. For some the Great Disillusionment is like a terrible Night, while for others, it is a Dawn.
Essence is emptiness, All else accidental
Emptiness brings peace to your loving, All else disease
In this world of trickery, Emptiness is what your soul wants. — Rumi
How can your chalice be filled if it is not first emptied? Carolyn Baker calls this emptying “Collapsing Consciously“, and it’s good advice. For, “if a man has a why, he can put up with any how” (Nietzsche), and that is also good advice. “Collapsing consciously” is just another way of saying “die to oneself daily”.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
No time like the present.