This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

The long night

How does one cope with this situation? We will get much deeper into this question in a later section of this manual. For now, the best advice came from Christ, given to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Stay awake.” How easily we are lulled to sleep throughout our lives. That’s your first task—to be awake. You’ll find it hard enough. After all it is the goal of every ascetic practice and the essence of every spiritual discipline there ever was—to be found still burning your oil at the end of the long night. Begin there. Complacence and inner inertia are deadly. Inner stagnation is in fact the best explanation for all the external agitation you see around you. Men who can maintain a healthy a balance between internal lucidity and external activity are at peace with themselves, they have harmonized their body, soul, and mind. Those who lose the balance fall into existential lopsidedness, and this usually amounts to a lifetime of mindless agitation. On the broad social level this leads to the cult of “busy-ness,” the obsession with “hard work”—only a world that has lost the concept of contemplation could elevate vain activity and economic drudgery to the status of virtues in themselves. “Still waters run deep,” the saying goes. When was the last time you stood still long enough for the surface of your consciousness to come to rest? The average person today knows nothing of stillness and spends each day splashing around frantically trying to find something secure to hold onto. This is why the Greek Fathers in particular developed the concept of ‘watchfulness’—they knew that everything hinges not so much on action as lucidity—and that lucid action has the potential to be meaningful. Your experience will be no different, if you can avoid being taken in, overrun and lured into a semi-conscious life.

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