The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The “Meaning Crisis” in contemporary Western culture is not an intellectual but an existential crisis. It is a felt-sense of underlying meaninglessness, a peculiar lack of ontological, rather than epistemological, solidity. Milan Kundera expressed this modern malady beautifully in the title of his cult classic 1984 novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

What is called for, what is calling, is gravity. Gravity calls for groundedness and gravitas. It calls for fully-embodied, full-blooded life. It calls for existential seriousness and responsibility (which explains the enormous appeal of Jordan Peterson). Ultimately, it is the call of Zen.

Modernity has advanced to a point of technological prowess such that it seems eminently reasonable to sidestep the unpleasant and inconvenient existential realities of physical and mental suffering. The techno-utopians promise us a frictionless future where all our electronic devices are seamlessly woven into a protective comfort blanket that will defend us against the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”.

For every frailty and shortcoming of human nature, there will be an app or a pill. The experts have it in hand. In this Brave New World, there is no need for personal responsibility or personal growth. There is no need to voluntarily confront suffering, no need to take up your cross. The appliance of science will sort you out in a jiffy.

This utopia, like all utopias, is unbearable. As Jesus so presciently put it, “What doth it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36