I recently ran across a take by C.S. Lewis on eschatology. His concept of the end times is that the point of end times passages is not so that we can play Pin the Tail on the Antichrist, but to put our actions in perspective. Christ might return in a thousand years. We’d better make long-term plans and brace ourselves for the long haul. Christ might return tomorrow. We’d better not neglect our neighbor today.
His point was that it is good to plant oaks in whose shade you will never rest. But if you prioritize the long game to the point of actively harming those around you, and Christ decides to end the show tomorrow, that would be pretty embarrassing, wouldn’t it?
Lewis was writing before Eugenics was a dirty word. When everyone thought “if we only let science do whatever it wishes, we shall cure death and suffering in a few years,” instead of having the general distrust for boffins in white coats which the technocrats have earned for themselves in the intervening years. At the time, the idea of breaking a few eggs to make a civilizational omelette was in vogue in a way it isn’t now (though sadly, as a culture, we’ve rejected it not because it is wrong, but because of the teh feelz).
His take, however, ties in quite well to thoughts I’ve been entertaining of late.
What Truly Lasts
I recall three or four years ago, Game Designer Vox Day expressed a desire to move from ephemeral, meaningless things like toys and games to more lasting and meaningful pursuits. He tried offering his wisdom and experience by counseling people for a short stint, if I recall correctly. Probably a bad fit for one of the few people on the face of the earth who would enjoy solitary confinement, but I myself have made worse calls.
In a recent stream, he gave us his conclusion. “Only three things stand the test of time. Children. Books. Architecture.” And, true to his conclusion, he’s investing a lot of time and effort into leather-bound, archival-quality book production despite its rather low profit potential.
I don’t want to knock the man. He’s made the most serious Wikipedia alternative in Infogalactic, and he takes the culture war far more seriously than so-called conservatives by launching comic books and movies while they spend all their time complaining that Hollywood Socialists aren’t playing fair, and refuse to notice him except to falsely accuse him of Nazism because he doesn’t play nice with Ben Shapiro.
Vox is doing good work.
But while he’s right that Sun Tzu’s Art of War has persisted for thousands of years, whereas video games are unlikely to persist for even a century, at the end of the day, even Sun Tzu will be swept away.
Children. That’s it. If your kids don’t apostate, you can take them with you into the next world. Your books and buildings? Gone. And good riddance. Once we’re unhampered by Adam’s curse, we’ll make much better ones. You like Lord of the Rings? Wait ’til you get a load of what Tolkien has written since!
I tend to follow self-improvement and motivational types. I always want to do better today than I did yesterday (though I seldom succeed).
But my religion creates a real point of departure. “Time is precious,” they say. “You can never get back the hours of the day.” I recently did a program called 31 Days to Masculinity, and I recommend it. But one of its defining moments was when it asked me to consider my life as followed: if I die tomorrow, what will I regret leaving undone?
The answer is… not much. I have a huge list of projects I want to do, sure. Games, cartoons, books. But they’d all be better without struggling under Adam’s curse. And if, in the world to come, I end up not doing them… it’s because I’ll be making something better.
One of my objectives is to make animations. The Mouse could use some competition. One of the problems with that, though, is animation is prohibitively expensive to produce.
In the coming kingdom, I can hand draw each frame. Spend all day on a single frame if that’s the right thing to do. I’ve got eternity to play with! I won’t need to work out the profit margin on the art, either. Food will grow on trees.
In a way, it’s a comfort to me. I can look at my projects and ask “which of these will feed my family,” rather than, “which of these do I care about the most,” because wouldn’t I rather save the one I care about for the age where I have infinite resources to pour into it?
“Time is a non-renewable resource. Memento mori.”
Speak for yourself, bitch. I’m immortal.
I still stand for playing the long game. I still believe Christians ought to have as many children as possible, teach them themselves, and build media empires and franchises with which to disseminate our pro-civilization propaganda.
But I am occasionally tempted to despair of the battle. This summary of J. D. Unwin’s work from the 1930s indicates that my culture is done for no matter what I do. I can’t stop the collapse. I can’t even ameliorate it.
By Unwin’s predictions, and counting the Sexual Revolution as starting in 1960, our cultural collapse began in 1993, and will be complete by 2059. (He counts a generation as 33 years. Cultures that abandon strict chastity get a free generation where they get to enjoy the cultural benefits of chastity along with the wild sex parties, but three generations after chastity leaves, the culture is done for.)
Despite my talents and intentions, it’s goodbye to flush toilets and hello to typhus. Thanks, Boomers! So good of you to throw away the working families and functional medicine you benefited from, on behalf of your great-grandchildren, just so you could get laid!
Time to start building monasteries and transferring knowledge into formats that will survive power-outages!
Which, again, is what Vox Day is doing. And I’m not really in a position to do that yet, nor have I any guarantee that I ever will be. I can try and move to the midwest, build a fortified compound, and brace myself for the winters to come, but for all I know all my plans will be frustrated and I’ll be trapped on the coasts where the collapse is worst.
The Calculus of Eternity
At the end of the day, there’s not much one man can do to stop the rise and fall of civilizations. And at the end of the day, it isn’t that big of a deal.
I’m immortal. Compared to me, compared to my wife, my children, my neighbor, what is a civilization? A may-fly. Nothing more than a tool with which to love my neighbor.
And I fight for it because I should love my neighbor, and it’s an incredibly useful tool.
But as a choose my battles, I need to keep the calculus of eternity in mind. Sure, my work is more likely to last for a thousand years if I make archival-quality books. But will I feed my kid? Will I endear my neighbor to the gospel? My neighbor and my kid are eternal. A thousand years is nothing.
At the moment, I’m looking at making digital pop-up books. My concerns are whether I can produce them efficiently, and whether they will sell. I’m not concerned that they have maybe a decade or two of viability before social upheaval makes them worthless.
Because whether they get etched into stone, or wiped out tomorrow by a virus, I’m just building castles out of soap-bubbles.