Buddhists believe that life is suffering. Platonists believe that generation — this place, the realm of coming-to-be — is warfare, that a fitting analogy to where we are here is a battlefield. And we believe in the eternity of the cosmos, as is very evident from all of the polemics our predecessors engaged in with Christians, so there are no true apocalypses. There are no truly cataclysmic wars (even if we could describe some acute events as “battles”). All of that is already built into how the One and the Henads unfold towards matter, analogized in myth. It never started, and it will never end.
Once, in the mid-recent past, I did the compassion meditation I do after praying to Apollon. I had just prayed to the Elevating Triad, and the energy was immense and beautiful. A thought crept into my mind during the part of the meditation when I focus on compassion for all beings. I tend to think of the cosmic web of galaxies, trying to simultaneously hold every planetary system I can conceive of and the web as a whole in my mind, and I envision the current of pronoia from the Gods — from Apollon — coursing out, breaking upon the worlds like waves, latticing it in to the tapestry of the universe, fashioning it an element of spacetime itself. Continuously.
The thought was about the suffering we have here — the climate crisis, the seemingly endless plagues of suffering. And then what I was holding in my mind shifted, and I saw worlds scattered across the cosmos like diamonds. I knew the ones that were suffering and the ones that were in bliss and every state in between. It was all happening at once. No part of the cosmos is utterly without hope; no part of the cosmos is utterly perfect. Some parts are in cataclysm; others are not. The cosmos is the best and most beautiful of places possible, as per the guiding force of the Gods in their demiurgic modes. The cosmos is the beset and most strife-ridden of places possible, as per its position as the point where the Forms crash into spacetime and partial souls and our shadows make our mystery-plays. The fierce pronoia of Apollon holds the truth of all of that. The arrow caresses the heart gently as it pierces, and the pronoia shifts to compassion within us.
When under stress, we tend to lose sight of the whole. Our vision tunnels. We cannot see what is not immediately in front of us, trapped as we are in survival mode. There was a strange comfort in knowing that there are alien dawns over oceans not contaminated by microplastics and places where the Gods are being joyously hymned, worlds that have never known the smashing of statues and the pathology behind those acts.
Generation is warfare. The challenges that one decade or half-century faces always seem more acute than what was suffered in the past. On Monday, I hit the back of my hand oddly on the side of a counter while reaching for the trash can and was thrown into some of the worst pain I have ever experienced. I nearly passed out, and I was so sick and dizzy that I just had to lean my head against the wall and try to breathe. That did seem like a calamity to me then, insurmountable, the end of everything. And, twenty minutes later, all that remained was the ache and nerve tingling from what must have been me hitting one of my hand’s main nerves in just the right way to be temporarily debilitating. I am here. I am breathing.
Certainly, we have a lot going on right now. The IPCC report was just released, and scientific consensus is that human greed and overconsumption — often seeded by corporations and “culture influencers” that have used malicious psychological manipulation to prod us all in a way that makes us overconsume and strip the Earth bare while simultaneously aggravating loneliness and division in order to antagonize us into hating one another — will lead to levels of human suffering that we have never before seen. “Never before seen” both in terms of the number of lives this dire situation impacts and in terms of the suffering’s visibility due to the global Internet. Water shortages, civilizational strife and collapse, and all of that are inevitable. And, as long as the cables are okay, we’ll see all of it on vid, unabated.
But this is not the end of the world. Earth will be fine, even if we won’t be. After all of what happens happens, there will be survivors to pick up the pieces, inconsiderately left with the aftermath of all of our mess. And the world will go on. And worlds will go on, even after the Sun swallows our own a few billion years after it suffocates us.
The true warfare with the Giants takes place in souls: whenever reason and intellect rule in them, the goods of the Olympians and Athena prevail, and the entire life is kingly and philosophical; but whenever the passions reign, or in general the worse and earth-born elements, then the constitution within them is tyranny.Proclus, Commentary on the Parmenides, Book I, 692-693
Instead of thinking about war — because, if generation is warfare, what does it mean to have a war within a war? — we could think in terms of pain. Me hitting the back of my hand was acute pain, and we are in a time of acute pain. There are some issues that are edging towards chronic — namely our species’ tendency to self-sabotage, to lean into the worst of itself (see the Proclus passage) instead of blossom into the best of what we are capable of.
As someone operating in a Platonizing mode, division and fragmentation and falling away from coherence are, to be frank, the worst things partial souls can do. Coming in close second to that is having a distorted worldview that leads someone to perpetuate injustice, be it murder or apartheid complicity or anything else. As Jaron Lanier told The Guardian, “The danger isn’t that AI destroys us. It’s that it drives us insane.” And, here, he is referring to that pulling apart, that Titanic division being done to ourselves, that self-pummeling as if we are the Giants, in the context of the current cultural zeitgeist of AI. We could broaden that out to any technology, to any zeitgeist, and we have implemented so many novelties over the past few decades that it’s hard to keep track of what is what. We’re only slowly realizing which of these things were good for us and which aggravated the worst of what we are capable of doing to ourselves and one another.
Apocalypticism is a hazardous, longitudinally ineffective, and spiritually harmful way to try to achieve some kind of unity or consensus around our common problems, and it’s baffling that so many polytheists are into it when it seems part and parcel of the evangelical Christianity that many converts to a polytheistic religion are escaping. Interpreting what we have going on in an inflated sense does not help anyone. The Gods are good, their pronoia extends to all things, and whatever encosmic beings are engaged in our endemic situations are endemic daimons or endemic divinities like nymphs and rivers and the spirits of cities and mountains &c., &c.
Apart from the climate collapse, some take it as a war that Gods would flow into contact with devotees in the present day, as if this is not just what Gods do naturally. The Gods are always engaged in their providential activity. What seems like a sputtering electric connection on our end that is to be fought for is automatic and natural from their perspective (although to speak in such a way is admittedly audacious because I am not a God). Iconoclasm cannot harm the Gods themselves; it operates through destroying the grid we have established in our cultures to connect to them (temples, rites, sacred words and formulae, agalmata) and forces many of us at present to jerry-rig — and, hopefully, that jerry-rigging will turn into new, healthy infrastructure eventually. The reason it seems like a “return” is that it was only several generations ago that it became legal to worship Gods again in many countries. You remove the dam, the ecosystem heals. Maybe some of us come into contact with more martial daimons in a God’s series that jazz all of this up as a component of motivating us. Does framing this reestablishment of conscious, aware connection as a war motivate people more than acknowledging it as natural?
What addresses the suffering and the division we face is rolling up one’s sleeves and becoming an active participant in finding solutions, in envisioning a world that is not broken, but the world as we want it to be. It means doing what we can to come out-of-resonance with material daimons, who are not evils in and of themselves, but who enact things in the cosmos that we probably don’t want to be vibing with, and the discord that binds us tighter and tighter towards materiality and fragmentation — we want to come into resonance with more appropriate daimons instead and bring the health of the divine into reality. We’re connected to many different Gods, and even those who are in the same series may be expressing a different relationship with their Leader. Generation is warfare, and what matters is that all parties are respectively trying to do their best and contribute to the whole.
What is actually necessary is to stop, to wake up, and to break that cycle of noise and division — to let yourself, just for a moment, not be trapped in that mode we get in when everything is coming at us all at once. To be able to take a breath and classify the pain we are in so we know what to do about it. Delete the TikTok and Twitter and Instagram and Reddit, &c. Even temporarily. Take a few days off from that part of the Internet, or maybe more than a few days — do a 30-day fast, or a 60-day, or a 90-day. Focus on prayer, and focus on meditation or mindful movement or dance or whatever way you prefer to integrate the solidity of your body with the lightning-bursts of thoughts and the stormy sea of emotions and the hungering desires that are rippling under the surface. Pray to the Gods that you can have the insight to accept whatever comes as teachings and that you have the resourcefulness to do what you need to do in pursuit of the Good.
Learn what you need to do — you, the soul, the person at your core — to be in a state of justice towards your own inner warfare, your own inner cosmos, your own mess. If you’re lonely, which you might be after temporarily deleting those things, get outside. Go feed people at a soup kitchen. Go read in a park, or make music and art with others, or commit to group fitness classes, or visit a nursing home to give comfort. Go clean up a highway or get involved in a park committee. Go do something that you care about that actually helps people. The people you meet away from the algorithms have not been ultra-filtered your way. You will experience cognitive discomfort, you will have to deal with the uneasiness that sometimes people are morally okay but have different perspectives from yours, and you will occasionally be disappointed and dismayed at how poorly other people take care of themselves and how easily we all trap ourselves in harmful mental feedback loops. A big step to recognizing the common humanity of everyone is to realize that everyone (including ourselves) is like this to some degree, and we need to have both self- and other-directed compassion if we are ever to have a chance at sorting through this mess.
Ask yourself what is really important to you. Try to figure out what, and who, you really are. Pray to the Gods for that insight — it’s best to begin from them. And commit to being whoever it is that you find beneath the layers of noise that you have buried yourself in so you know the self that you are caring for.
5 thoughts on “Generation is Warfare, and the World is Without End”
There’s a beautiful moment in the film “Everything Everywhere All at Once” that’s been getting shared around again in light of the film’s multiple Oscar wins. It’s the moment when Waymond explains that his constant looking on the bright side or seeking the silver lining doesn’t come from a place of naivete, but instead from recognizing the importance of doing so to his own survival. It’s heartening to me that that moment in the film resonates with so many people.
I recently saw a screenshot of that moment again, and it caused me to reflect that I’m actually less cynical than I used to be, even though one might argue that I have more reason to be now. (Cynicism is supposed to be Gen X’s stock in trade, after all–but I don’t have much use for those kinds of generalizations.)
One thing that’s made a real difference, that has grown out of connections in my workplace and elsewhere to people doing justice work, is the recognition that whatever thing that comes to my attention as needing care and effort, there are already people out there doing that work. By myself I can’t do much, but finding those people, heeding their experience, and joining my effort to theirs can be tremendous.
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What an inspiring piece, Kaye. It really moved me what with everything feeling really bleak (for us collectively as humankind and also for me, living where I do) and opening up a different perspective. I’ll definitely take up on your advice. And the meditation you mention sounds really very good which is another thing to try for me. I’ve been doing lovingkindness and gratefulness meditation for a while and this might upgrade my practice considerably.
On another note, I sent you an email about 10 days or so ago but am not sure if I got the address right or if you ever received it…
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Thank you for your comment! I don’t think I’ve received an email — feel free to send again. kallisti at fea dot st should work 🙂
Argh, my bad. Mistyped the address. Just sent it!
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