Ever wonder what it must have felt like when “normal” was a life with little communication with the rest of the world, periodic monster storms that arrived without warning, such rudimentary medicine that relatively minor wounds and illnesses could be fatal, and the perpetual threat that some invading force might sweep through and upend everything that gave people a sense of meaning in the world?
I think that sense of reality must have been in some ways opposite to the modern experience. Sure storms, illnesses, and attacks can still occur, and sometimes they can overwhelm us, but we’re able to have so much more foresight, and we have options when threats arise. We’ve almost reached the point of being able to be largely ignorant of the world around us because we’re protected. It’s not that we can’t know about the world beyond our field of vision, but that we don’t have to.
If it must have been difficult to have a sense of “normal” in a less predictable and less manageable world, it may be too easy to hold on to a sense of “normal” in our lives these days.
That thought is in line with a recent op-ed from Michael Morse in the Providence Journal:
So, what to do? Do we isolate, and ignore the dark tide that is rising? Or do we live and let live, and try and make sense of a world going mad? The fact that I’m tempted to pull the blankets over my head and stick my head in the sand scares me more than mobs or terrorists. The fear of surrendering to a group mentality of aggression and oppression keeps me fighting, and speaking my mind.
Morse’s examples are the British-accented terrorist beheading people for snuff-film propaganda videos and the riots and sometimes-violent activism stoked by the Obama administration and the news media in response to a police shooting. There are many more he could have used, from the massive financial bubble created through public policy to the fabricated fear campaign warning about rape epidemics to the collapsing international order.
Through it all, we can just go about our lives, expecting the ship to right itself, because the world will always return to “normal.” Or maybe we hold a secret, even subconscious, hope that we’ll be gone before everything falls apart completely.
What’s disconcerting is that we can still repair most of what’s damaged in our world today and return to a path of expanding global normality with just a little bit more discernment and a little bit of discomfort in the face of those who would use our desire for a normal life as a means of steering us toward a corral and lock us in.