This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3| Volume 4 | Volume 5 | Volume 6

The use of the aphoristic form

Flip through a few pages and you will notice that this book isn’t written as a continuous and progressive treatment of a particular subject, nor is it neatly divided into chapters that connect and build upon one another. I decided early on that a ‘linear’ approach would not be possible for this project, mostly because I tend not to think that way, allergic as I am to systems, and also because the subjects I plan to address are much too numerous and varied for a linear approach. It would be a waste of time to try and create an artificial ‘flow’ between thoughts that are blatantly incongruous. That is why, in order to include as many subjects as possible, I have sought to ‘condense’ rather than to ‘develop’. I have aimed more for ‘aphorism’ than ‘essay’.

The aphoristic form is also practical. Modern life is almost universally chaotic and hurried. Few of us are able to make time for lengthy works of non-fiction, and when we do find the time, we often lack the endurance it takes to work through long essays and chapters. Aphorism, material that is condensed into bite-size segments, is more effective for people like you and I, since it is neither lengthy nor demanding, and is yet still capable of acting as a support for deep reflection because an idea conveyed in a few sentences is something you can ‘take with you’ to unpack even after you put the book down. Such brevity makes the thought more digestible while you are working the night shift at a pharmaceutical plant watching vials of medication sprint past you on the conveyor belt. Aphorism is the salvation of the modern thinking man who might wish to develop his mind in the face of a mind-numbing routine.

Add to this the fact that most people who write, write too much, myself included. Given this tendency, the standard approach of selecting a very broad chapter title and then spewing forth thirty pages of text is not very considerate of the reader who knows what they are looking for and simply wants to find it. Things used to be done differently. There was a time when the table of contents told us almost everything we needed to know about a book. Look at some of the classics like Gibbon’s “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire”, or Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”. You will open the cover to find a sophisticated table of contents that makes approaching such lengthy works more manageable. Compare this to a modern scholarly work which might run for five hundred pages and only be divided into a few chapters, with the table of contents providing almost no indication of what the reader is going to find therein. It seems that Tocqueville understood that a person might not be interested in reading every single thought that he felt inclined to write, and so he divided his ideas into compact sections and this in turn permitted a descriptive and therefore useful table of contents, allowing readers to get within a page or two of the information they need without having to scan through a whole chapter and still come up with nothing but a headache.

In my own experience, an aphoristic approach is best when dealing with the areas of ‘wisdom’ and spirituality, because these things tend to suffer when subjected to too much analysis, which always ends in systematizing. Think, for example, of the style of presentation adopted by all of the great teachers and prophets, from Christ to Buddha to Muhammad. These teachers did not produce lengthy discourses. They produced proverbs, parables, and ahadith. Think also of the Tao Te Ching. This is why the Hindus take such pains to condense their doctrines into the most concise form imaginable, such as what you find in the Brahma Sutras.

This manual is a work of pointillism, in the sense that there is a vision of reality that I wish to convey, but it is a partial vision, and so I can only convey it in fragments, like pieces of a puzzle that can never truly be completed. Aphorism allows me to provide as many pieces as possible, however small, without demanding that each piece fit directly into the one that comes before or after it. I have only collected as many pieces as I could, and there will be gaps for you to fill as you are able. My sole purpose is to show you a certain constellation of ideas, rather than a full and unbroken picture of the cosmos. Always know that whatever this manual has to offer, it can only amount to a collection of notes for a book that, in the end, cannot exist.

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