Here I am again, with you another of my rambles. This is the third in what I hope to be material I can use for a paper I will be delivering at The Academy of Philosophy and Letters at its annual conference.
Now onto today’s ramble:
I think it is safe to say we wouldn’t have households at all, even in the degenerate state they’re in, if they hadn’t performed useful work for thousands of years. But they no longer perform that work. What happened?
It’s a well-known story among those who care to know; but it is remarkable how few actually care to know it. Most people, even many of those who should know better, believe it was inevitable because of the march of progress and that nothing has been left behind that was worth keeping.
I’m thinking of the Industrial Revolution and the revolution in thought that came before that and made it possible. Over the course of those revolutions productive work moved out of the house and into the workplace. Economies of scale, the division of labor, and the harnessing of power that could never have occurred in the household economy, gave us automobiles, and air conditioning, and antibiotics. I confess that I like those things and I’d like to keep them. But everything comes at a price and these things have cost us the meaning of the world.
To make our modern Babel (where nothing is impossible) we’ve had to deconstruct the natural world. And since nature includes us, we’ve also deconstructed ourselves. We had to in order to isolate the raw materials with which to make our bricks for our stairway to the stars.
Sadly, to reach the heavens we can see, we’ve had to trade in the heavens we cannot see. Is it true? Is it good? Is it beautiful? Those questions have been replaced by, is it useful? Because we’ve cut away those transcendentals, paradoxically we’ve also cut ourselves off from the earth. Our bodies no longer inform us since we’d rather they’d be without form and void so as to make them subject to our wills. Women no longer look to their bodies to find a purpose to serve. Men increasingly don’t either. Teleo-biology, we’re told, if it had any basis at all, did nothing more than help old white guys boss other people around. So now we’re suspended in mid-air, cut off from both heaven and earth, carried along by the winds of doctrine blowing from places like Harvard, Wall Street, and Hollywood. This is taken for freedom, but it is not. We are more subject than ever to the Prince of the Power of the Air.
Most of us are little more than motes that float about until we get absorbed by those powerful economic bodies we call corporations. Then we are assigned miniscule tasks in economies too large to understand, or change. The modern palliative is to seek meaning through consumption in our time off. This is why our homes have been transformed into recreation centers, which, perversely, have fewer members and more floor space than ever.
Because of all of these things and more, my conviction has grown stronger over time that the only way to get our feet back on the ground and again live beneath a meaningful sky, is by bringing our work back home. We need to make our households productive again, so productive that we actually rely upon them for the basic necessities of life. If we can do this, we will discover an agency that submits to the truth rather than subverts it.
From the draft of a paper that I am slated to read at The Academy of Philosophy and Letters.
Here’s something else for you to enjoy. Wipf and Stock, the publisher of my book, Man of the House, has given me permission to share a little sample of the book with you. The hope, of course, is you will like it enough to purchase a copy. Enjoy!.
Click here to download the book excerpt as a PDF: Man of the House_Excerpt