An age which understands beauty, understands mystery. And an age at ease with mystery must be able to confront the despair of uncertainty, of unsolvable problems.
We must beware of anyone bearing the gift of a perfect idea, a meticulously formed solution. This is one dangerous problem with our technologically enslaved generation. We worship technology, because we worship solutions, we are an age addicted to the dopamine rush of correct answers, formulas and equations.
This is what makes our time in history such a uniquely philistian one.
Before the twentieth century, the primacy of religious ritual and piety was not merely a sign of primitive knowledge, though that may have been part of the success of religion as a social force. The power of religion, however, also comes from its ability to offer a map through uncertainty, a map which if it is understood properly, is not fixed, but symbolic.
The technological model makes mystery, mythology and meaning itself seem like the epiphenomenal waste of brain-function, the evolutionary excess of consciousness.
The danger of this mindset is its in principle hubris. What is unknown, is knowable. What we don’t know, simply awaits conquest.
Ironically, we are less and less able to confront the unknown, our relationship with mystery is one of a frustrated child to a broken toy, and our lustful need for solutions and quick fixes is the product of a spiritual tantrum, an existential outburst, rather than some noble quest of inquiry.
If we do not find ways to confront the infinity of the unknown (for there can be no complete knowledge, no ultimate solution), we lose one of the most exquisite experiences of being alive, and we treat the anxieties and depressions of life as sickness, deviations from the norm, rather than crucial aspects of our growth as moral beings.
Moral behaviour cannot exist in this narcissistic obsession with solutions. Mystery places boundaries on our arrogance, it gives us the necessary limits to our conceits.
By embracing our limitations, by understanding that it is what we don’t know that makes us what we are, we avoid the intoxication of power, and automatically fall into existential solidarity with our fellow man.
The hubris of the Macbook-Tesla generation creates a narcissism that cannot survive the dread of uncertainty and death. We become pathological, hell-bent on final solutions wherever we can find them.
The artist does not need to offer solutions. His criticism does not need to replace what he criticises. It is enough that poets and painters and the heritage of myth give us a looking glass through which we see our own beautiful insignificance.
Dread, depression and stone cold horror are part of life. But so is beauty and love and the creative rush of ideas. We can’t have one without the other, and neither would we want a world so imbalanced.