The mouse-soul is nothing but a nibbler.
To the mouse is given a mind
proportionate to its need,
for without need, the All-Powerful doesn’t give anything to anyone.
Need, then, is the net for all things that exist:
A person has tools in proportion to his need.
So quickly, increase your need, needy one,
that the sea of abundance
may surge up in loving-kindness — Rumi, “Increase Your Need”
I once considered naming this blog “Shockwave Rider” rather than The Chrysalis. Shockwave Rider (1975) was the title of a seemingly prescient science fiction novel by the British catastrophist writer John Brunner (along with other dystopian novels of economic, ecological and environmental disaster like The Sheep Look Up (1972) and Stand on Zanzibar (1968)).
I actually don’t recall if I ever read Shockwave Rider, but the title of the book has always struck me as an appropriate description of our situation, reminiscent, as it is too, of The Doors song “Riders on the Storm”.
What I love about the name “Shockwave Rider” is its suggestion, as image, of a particular attitude and approach that must be adopted for “staying ahead of the game” (or “the curve”), as the popular saying goes. It brings to mind Rosenstock-Huessy’s project of survival by “outrunning” the demise of the Modern Era, of the attitude of amor fati commended by Nietzsche for surviving his “two centuries of nihilism”, as well as Jean Gebser’s sober-minded approach to avoid being drawn into the vortex of mass panic and paranoia — of “the maelstrom of blind anxiety” — that he anticipated attending our present civilisational decadence and ensuing chaotic transition (today again brought to mind after reading Thomas Homer-Dixon’s article on Chaos as the New Normal). Too some extent, too, it brings to mind Goldlin’s and Kutarna’s plea for a restored perspectivity or perspectivism — as “New Renaissance” — in their book Age of Discovery.
To ride the shockwave brings to mind, of course, the surfer, and one might say that the same degree of skill and self-mastery is required here to keep from being bowled over and going under. Perhaps even our contemporary fascination with “black holes” also has something of the resonantly symbolic and mythic about it — the theme of being compulsively drawn into the orbit of nihilism and being swallowed up and devoured by that abyss of nothingness, for nothing presently in our “post-everything society” resembles a “maelstrom” more than how black holes are envisaged.
Shockwaves aren’t linear and unidirectional, of course. They radiate and propagate in all directions — backwards, forwards, inwards, outwards. That’s certainly one of the reasons why Homer-Dixon looks at four dimensions of the present turbulence. Shockwaves dismantle and deconstruct the familiar, articulated social order of times and spaces. What is considered past and what is future, what is inner and what is outer (or subjective and objective, private and public, or national or global) become all higgledy-piggledy and helter-skelter. There is here, in those terms, a breakdown — a dis-integration — of Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality“.
The shockwave is the tremendous force of nihilism, which is the process of death in its social disguise, but which always seems to be a precondition for a radical mutation of consciousness structure (or what we refer to vaguely as “human nature”). The stress (and distress) of ages in decline seems to be a necessary precondition for that mutation. Because it is nonlinear and multidirectional, it dismantles and demolishes those social institutions erected to guard the past and future times and the inner and outer spaces of life, which are everywhere known in various forms and by various names, as “the Guardians of the Four Directions”. The shockwave blows them away, and it often takes considerable collective effort, enlisting many generations, to restore them after the social cataclysm.
And the reason too many, today, don’t also see the social cataclysm in the making — that post-modernity bears a striking resemblance to the waning of the middle ages or the last years of the “classical” ages of Rome and Greece, but are even in denial about it — is owing to the problem of Roderick Seidenberg’s “Post-Historic Man” (who is also Nietzsche’s “Last Man”) who has no collective memory of these other social disasters, and so has not become inoculated against their repetition for following the same pattern.
A shockwave rider is a sur-vivor who stays atop of, or ahead of, the shockwave, yet also skillfully utilises that shockwave to reach the other shore.
As Rumi also put it, “the cure for the disease is in the disease”.
A prior death is the precondition, of course, for any rebirth (a “Renaissance”). Gebser simply calls that process of death and rebirth the “double-movement” in our time of dis-integration and a new integration of the consciousness structure. The intensifying dysfunctionality of an older structure of consciousness (in Gebser’s terms, its “deficient mode” of perception and action, or what we call “crisis”) is the necessary precondition for its creative restructuration. A Socrates appeared when the condition of Late Greek mythical civilisation became dire — the decadence of the mythical consciousness structure. The Renaissance emerged when the decadence of Holy Roman Empire and the Age of Faith became too painful. What emerged in all cases from the shockwave of disintegration, deficiency, decay and social pain, was a new human type — a mutation — for no other reason, it seems, other than the need was great.