This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Man as conqueror or as steward of the world

The modern world speaks of the world as an enemy to be conquered, or in its more practical moments, as a resource to be exploited. When man is reduced to an expression of nature, as a member of the animal kingdom and nothing more, he is likewise fitted into the framework of objects-of-exploitation, even if the rhetoric says otherwise.

The religious man possesses an appreciation for things, and this appreciation is due to a perception of the value of things beyond their practical use. For the industrial world, if a thing has no use value it has no value: for the pious man everything has value because everything has a meaning that it wishes to convey to us. To destroy the world’s most beautiful natural environments or to accelerate the extinction of animal species is to rip pages from the Book of Life, a book written for man by God. We make each forest a lumber yard, and the ocean a fishpond.

It is far better to be at peace with the world than at war with it. Those who approach the world as an enemy will always feel at odds with it, because they have made it so. Those who know the oneness of being feel an unavoidable kinship with beings. When we approach the world as a gift, we extend our knowledge and our appreciation of it.

The pursuit of expediency for the sake of meeting material needs is not evil, since without pursuing these ends we could live; but we must understand that we not live on bread alone. The world is given to us not only as a material resources but as a contemplative resource, and it is possible to exploit it in the first sense to the exclusion of the second. Happiness cannot come by meeting material needs only: without an ability to appreciate what the world offers in terms of wonder is to live in opulent misery. The evil of materialism is that it teaches man only to gratify a part of himself and to expect happiness to come from a category of activity that should only be seen as the support for happiness. We eat so that we may pursue wonder in the world: if we destroy our capacity for wonder in order to pursue a kind of gluttony, we live for nothing. Life by bread alone is not worth living, and the fact that our civilization must anesthetize itself daily with an endless variety of pharmaceutical products is perhaps a further proof of the insufficiency of its wealth.

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