There is something wrong in civilisation.
I received a comment to a blog of mine about the complexity of modern life, introducing the word “kafka.” In the English dictionary is a word “Kafkaesque” that describes situations as like those in the writings of Franz Kafka as “Marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity.”
“Kafkaesque” perfectly sums up how I feel when I walk around in civilisation. I was born into this sort of society, and should know no difference, but I do, and I feel a menacing wrongness about everything. I say “menacing” because it is like a brooding shadow at the extreme of my perception, like some dark claw would reach out in an instant and drag me screaming into devouring darkness. I have had such dreams of course, of bright happy scenes, where the lights start failing, it slips into horror, and though I have no lucid dreaming skills, I instinctively struggle to get out of the impending nightmare by getting the lights working with varying degrees of success.
I have long since rejected the idea of “reality” as being like a Matrix, or of Plato’s Cave, as simple minded. Rather, I see a reality that is underpinned by another, where both needs the other to survive. They have a word for this sort of idea in philosophy called “hypostasis”; which is best described as like a tree, where what we see is the tree, a reality underpinned by another unseen reality, its roots.
At one time humanity was in the same boat with the same ideas and reality, that of nomadic hunter gatherers in a struggle for life at the mercy of nature. Nature was viewed both as a dark and a bright aspect, the winter darkness that devoured women and children, and happy bright summer with plentiful food and warmth. These two aspects battled on a wheel of seasons, becoming archetypes, their appearance and stories of the same theme, but with different names and ways of telling.
Civilisation appeared to bring with it the conquest of nature, the realisation we were now the masters, the ability to live in our heated houses with our ordered pizzas and electronic gizmos.
There is that sense of a menacing laugh, that we have fallen into a trap, that all is not as it seems. Perhaps that winter spirit has “won” in some manner? The tree we see as modern civilisation appears strong, though we know it behaves in an unnatural fashion in some manner, yet what of its roots? What if those roots are rotten and dead? If the roots are weak, could a storm send the tree crashing down?
This is why I am wary of modern civilisation, for it looks unsteady, and by its nature seems to inflict onto the human mind and spirit something that the winter spirit of old never could. Still, I walk along seeing oblivious people passing by, and the menacing shadow is there, and a distant laugh.