In the modern marketplace of shadows of life—a ghastly theatre in which everything and everyone is merchandise—we are distracted by technologically-spun and mediated choices that appear false in the light of permanent, natural choices. While the choices we are “sold into” by the modern marketplace pertain to the free-floating symbolic forms of a technologically fueled and channeled imagination, natural choices pertain to permanent ends. In the latter case, we are faced with fundamental alternatives reducible to two opposites, a positive one and a negative one insofar as life may be oriented towards the good, or towards evil. That this distinction is not self-evident, or that it is not an answer to our everyday life predicament is obvious. The distinction begs for investigation as a question that we are faced with, a question we are given to face, both in the respect that the question is given to us and in the respect that we are given to or for it.
If man were born into this world simply to face the good, he would be an angelic fish altogether out of water. Yet, there is more than “the good” that attracts us in this world. We are attracted to evil almost as much as we are to the good. Similarly, we do not seek beauty alone, but the ugly, as well; and pray not only to Apollo, but to Dionysus; awakening to the morning’s sun, even as we seek sleep upon the star’s setting. Such is the life of men, cycling between positive callings and Hypnos (sleep divined), twin brother of Thanatos, “death” itself. Until, that is, we turn upon the cycle, exposing or letting go of ourselves, of our being lost in our current cyclical predicament, our being-determined by it as its opaque masks.
Letting go of our being-trapped-in-cyclicity is possible only where our cycle is set on a vaster horizon, a greater context allowing us to take our bearings from what is not cyclical, what may allow us to see the opposites of good and evil in terms of a “higher good”. Yet, the “higher good” emerges as twofold, for there are two ways to approach it: one as smothering answer, the other as answer-redeeming question. In the former case, good and evil converge into the establishment of an order of things given which the exercise of virtue, or the effort to pursue the good, is entirely expendable; in the latter case, good and evil emerge as indispensable points of reference for our own rise as faces of an awakening, a “clearing” given which evil is but the mirror of good—absence but a reflection of presence. Here, human providence abandoned by divine providence emerges as human providence divinely supported. While in our world of good and evil, our effort to overcome evil is unsupported by a divine order of things, in that order itself, our effort is royally supported. Thus does Matthew 27:46 read, “My God, my God, what have you forsaken me for?” (Θεέ μου θεέ μου, ἵνα τί με ἐγκατέλιπες / Deus meus, Deus meus, ut quid dereliquisti me). Man is “left behind” as sign of what rises ahead, or so that we may all turn (in the fulness of time, or “on the third day”) to what transcends our ordinary dying.
The Biblical memento mori is a sign of the vacuity of all that is dying, suggesting that we are not condemned to dying—that we are not originally meant for dying, but for rising outside of the cycle of death. The cycle of death presupposes an underlying “way,” a telos that proceeds from eternal life to its absence or mirror through which we partake in eternal life. Death, now, is no longer the enemy of life, but the vehicle through which we rise to life undying, life that no longer falls into darkness (Erebus). Hence the Christian appeal to the Cross. Through it, our world ushers into “another” one in which human providence is fully supported by a divine counterpart.
In the modern world, the classical appeal to divinely supported human providence is eclipsed by an appeal to the synthesis of both modes of providence, whereby human providence is reduced to passive compliance with a divine providence reduced, in turn, to mechanically imposed order. Virtue is reduced to fitness in a Regime defined by a technology raised to the status of father of all Gods. Evil is now used mechanically by the Regime as necessary fuel for the emergence of an order in which the machine stands as ultimate guarantor of salvation from evil.
Where evil is necessary for freedom’s apotheosis, the ultimate good renders traditional conceptions of virtue not only expendable, but offensive to those working towards the establishment of the universal or global marketplace of all possible goods. For that marketplace stands or falls on the systematic fostering of evil as “raw material” for the mechanical production of marketable goods. Evil is now, not merely a secret to hide (after the manner of Dorian Grey) behind a smokescreen of glamorous pretense, but a treasure to flaunt as the legitimate truth about all products of mercantile ingenuity. The new artist being a terminally “enlightened” merchant, or a merchant no longer hampered by any traditional sense of shame, evil cannot possibly reflect the permanent importance of traditional virtue; on the contrary, evil must now be the good in and of itself—the good that begs us, nay destines us to become vociferous carriers of evil. It is this consummate evil conceived beyond all question—evil as consummate silencing of natural doubt—that the mercantile warriors of our new age of shamelessness promote restlessly.
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