Note: This is the second of a two-part series on American generational cycles. This piece can be read as a standalone, but it is recommended you begin with part one, “How American Generational Cycles Influence Our Life’s Narrative.”
In the early ‘90s, when author Ron Chernow was asked to write a biography on John D. Rockefeller Sr. (1839–1937), he initially balked. He assumed that Rockefeller was an empty, dull monopolist of a bygone era.
Upon visiting the Rockefeller Archives, Chernow read through an old interview transcript between John D. and a prior biographer, and couldn’t believe how gripping it was…
“[There is a link between] the seasons of nature and the seasons of a human life. Modern history does not beat to a rhythm invented by great nations, with all their vast economies, armies, and institutions — but to a natural rhythm, the rhythm of life itself.”
- Neil Howe
Are we really who we think we are?
When attempting to make sense of our life’s narrative, to identify the moments that shaped us the most — we are inevitably struck with a sobering conclusion: an impartial third-party, if given the ability to review our lives in its totality, could…
We try, in the words of Marcus Aurelius, to “shrug it all off— every annoyance and distraction — and reach utter stillness.” To build a kind of mental vault or stronghold that no distraction or false impression can breach. For brief moments, we are able to get there. And when we’re there, we find ourselves capable of things we didn’t even know were possible: Superior performance. [Breathtaking] clarity. Profound happiness.
Marcus Aurelius (121–180 A.D) served as Rome’s emperor during its golden era, but his reign proved astoundingly difficult. In 161, Roman forces stationed in Armenia were massacred by…
“One of the most dangerous features of the techno-industrial system is precisely its power to make people comfortable under circumstances in which they should NOT be comfortable, e.g., circumstances that are offensive to human dignity, or destructive of the life that evolved on Earth over hundreds of millions of years, or that may lead to disaster at some future time.”
Ted J. Kaczynski a.k.a “The Unabomber”
Decades after his arrest, Ted Kaczynski remains a fascinating figure. Why did this brilliant mathematician turn into a homicidal recluse? …
“What [50 Cent] had, and what most really powerful people have in life is a sense that they are unique, that there is something very different about them. And to the extent that you bring out your uniqueness in life, that you become more of an individual, that you bring more of your individuality into play, the more [powerful and influential you will become.]”
We should never overlook the might and resiliency of the human spirit. Even after years more challenging than 2020, we humans have emerged as stronger, more capable versions of ourselves. We are the ones…
“Some of the biggest problems facing the world―war, hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation―are essentially system failures. They cannot be solved by fixing one piece in isolation from the others, because even seemingly minor details have enormous power to undermine the best efforts of too-narrow thinking.”
Donella H. Meadows
The most pressing issues afflicting humanity today are multivariate. They require a great deal of effort to grasp thoroughly. Analyzing them can be disturbing and reveal errors in our worldview, so downplaying their severity can, at times, be comforting.
Environmental depredations, the potential dangers of A.I, warfare over resources and ideologies…..who cares…
The Western world is secular. No longer does the church reign supreme over the state. People can worship as they please and aren’t besieged with religious dogma 24/7.
However, to think there’s zero benefit to having a religion such as Buddhism or Christianity serve as a societal bedrock is naive. Controversial sections aside, there are verses in the Bible nations would benefit from idealizing. Passages that preach gratitude, altruism, and diligence. Passages that remind us, no matter our race or gender, we all deal with various sorts of injustices and misfortunes.
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who constitute this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”
I find most of American political content to be nauseating. Politicians are seen as either saviors or devil incarnates. Conservatives naively believe that all members of the ownership class amassed their wealth and influence virtuously…
David Foster Wallace was one of the most critically acclaimed writers of his generation. His eye for detail and command of the English language were unparalleled. Some of his passages are so finely crafted that you want to put down the book and mutter, “I’ll never write anything this good in my life.”
That he never forced his worldview onto the reader was admirable. He simply conveyed his findings about the bizarre, profound human experience. He looked at the world with an objective lens and examined the pathologies, triumphs, recurring themes, and tragedies of those around him.
He committed suicide…
America has its flaws. Countless books examine them, but they often conclude their grim analyses with a chapter on “how to make things better.” Rarely is the feasibility of these proposed solutions considered.
What if the flaws in our principal institutions, from Capitol Hill to the National Security apparatus to the Federal Reserve, are unfixable? What if they exacerbate one another, resulting in an unsolvable nightmare? Is the reality that America has already begun its irreversible decline, after only 250 years, staring us in the face?
All empires fall, after all. …