Pomocon ponderings continued:

1. On one end you have a profound way of life , rooted and grounded in a robust and declarative embodiment of the whole . On the other end you have a superficial lifestyle , one option among many chosen for no more and no less than idiosyncratic, contingent, partial ‘reasons’. In the middle you have real life . . .

2. An anecdote . My family likes making the effort to find and activate green alternatives for contemporary living. But we also like the rewards and benefits of making other kinds of efforts, which make a ‘full blown’ green way of life impracticable. We find contemporary life to be, on the whole, good; but we find much of it rotten. We hate much of what is on TV, yet we own a TV (basic cable) and watch it from time to time. We like country life, but all we can manage at the moment is a small rented cottage. We really wouldn’t want to live full-time at that cottage right now at all. But we love staying there at stretches. Although our enjoyment of the country is, by our lights, in no way superficial, we certainly regret not being able to draw indefinitely the sorts of goods associated with extended country living. We also regret not living on a tropical island, though we don’t really want to live on one.

3. On what basis are we to judge whether our arrangements, compromises, and efforts are part of Larger Problems (the ubiquity of consumerism and a la carte-ism, the commodification of experience, the inauthenticity of performance, etc.)? And then what is to be done as a result?

4. Are we better able to address those problems by inculcating an ethic of honesty for individuals, on the basis of their family character, when applicable, than by formulating a comprehensive critique of something called modernity?

5. Or is the issue that the ethic-of-honesty route is too aristocratic in outlook, i.e. too far out of solidarity with our fellows, present and future, whose lives will be adversely impacted by our choice to take the slower and more uncertain road?

6. On the one hand, a longing to reconcile oneself both honestly and well to the world, natural and social; on the other, a duty to treat the possibility of the good life for certain others as no more or less important than that of one’s own. Which prevails? Which certain others are meant, and why? Point of departure for debates on relevance of nation-state to justice (Manent), conservative tribalism (paging Helen), ethnonationalist-yet-universalist solidarity (Rorty). Or should we be speaking as a duty to oneself versus a longing for others? Can we ever not be stuck with both — amid liberty worthy of the name?

Articles by James Poulos

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