Breaking the Chains of Modernity

Some years back, my library-browsing habit led me to discover Adbusters magazine.

Typically irreligious, often irreverent, it covered matters of politics and economics with greater vigour than I’ve ever personally felt about either of them.  Provocatively creative, the publication intrigued me.

It still does.

A piece from the latest issue, titled, “Breaking the Chains of Modernity,” opens like this:

The philosophical and spiritual problems of our age are so great that what our time calls for are new manifestos of knowledge and being. We need a kind of spiritual change that exceeds the political. Unfortunately most of us in the Westernized world spend more time trying to escape from ourselves (sex, shopping, addiction, fashion, entertainment, success), than we ever spend reflecting on the state of our existence, our heart or our soul. We are people driven by our desires: desires which destroy our hearts and any ability to have a connection to the greater spiritual realities that are all around us. As the Qur’an says, “God does not change the condition of a people, until they change their own condition.”

I find an unusual power–let’s call it the power of truth proclaimed–in hearing a blatantly secular voice call out the warning that we of the Western world are senselessly seeking escape when the salvation of our souls and society most needs us to engage in deeper ways than we ever have before.

I’m not certain of the greater context of the quoted Qur’an passage, but it the point is along the same line as the Bible’s, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you,” then it would be easy for both Adbusters and myself to AMEN it.

If the passage above resonates with you in any regard, head HERE for the full article.

If these thoughts about our persistent quest for distraction has conceived a simple observation or a full-blown rant, birth that baby in the comments section below.

Resign Yourself, No Conditions

I have memories of moments in life when I would respond privately to circumstances or conversations with three words pressed through a monster voice: “Quit screwing around!”

It’s been a while since my last such release, but it has dawned on me multiple times recently that God surely has this statement in His repertoire.

And I have heard it from various angles lately.  One of them has been Thomas à Kempis, who wrote this:

“There are some who resign themselves, but they attach conditions to it.  They do not trust in God completely, so they take pains to provide for themselves just in case.  Some offer everything at first, but later, beaten down by temptations, they go back to their old ways and thus make little progress in virtue.  People like these will not gain the true freedom of a pure heart nor the grace of a joyful intimacy with me unless they surrender themselves unconditionally and offer themselves as a sacrifice to me each day.  Without this total self-surrender a joyful union between us cannot exist, either now or ever.”

I don’t want to be short-changed on the experience of God’s freedom or power in my life.  I don’t want to be stunted in my development.  I don’t want to be squeezed out of the joyful union into which Christ invites all of us.

The solution, according to the quote above?

Resign yourself, and resist the temptation to attach conditions.  [This ties in closely with The Power of Abandonment, posted elsewhere.]



I’ve found a new treat.

It’s a highly creative magazine called Adbusters. I admit that five years ago, I likely wouldn’t have even taken this magazine off the rack. Now I find myself browsing it every time I go to the library.

So what is it?

Their website is called “Culturejammers Headquarters”, and all that they do is aimed to look critically at Western culture. Browse even one issue, and you’ll see them to be anti-materialism, anti-HUGE-corporation (McDonald’s and Nike are among their biggest targets), anti-tobacco, anti-alcohol, anti-pornography, anti-war, and more.

These are often to folks who organize or support annual events like “TV Turnoff Week” and “Buy Nothing Day“.

Their tones are often cynical, even sarcastic. But much of it resonates with me and little of it strikes me as inappropriate

It’s been one of the more stimulating things I’ve come across lately.

A recent issue contained a “visual essay” entitled “The Existential Divide”. It’s an image-filled scan of the last 100 years. Portions of it are very powerful.

As an obvious disclaimer, I question the use of a suicide bomber as an illustration of something noble (near the end), but I didn’t want to butcher the article and I can seem SOME value in the comparison, so I’ve included it.

Some of the words scattered through it are these…

Progress > Freedom >> Yes.

Free at last…?

A passionate struggle for freedom is deeply embedded in the history of the western world. It still inspires us today. And it still inspires oppressed people everywhere. Freedom is our great meta-meme, the crowning jewel of our civilization…

But lately, in our own back yard, freedom has taken a perverse, hyper-individualistic turn.

We now drink more, do more drugs, live more promiscuously, spend more money, use up more resources, create more waste, and deliberately flaunt our wealth, power, and sexuality more than any other culture on earth.

When a modest, pious man living in a poor village a world away looks at us, what does he see?

While 79% of university entrants in 1970 said their goal in life was to develop ‘a meaningful philosophy of life,’ by 2005, 75% defined their life’s objective as ‘being very well off financially.’

What happened?

Have we found total freedom, or absolute disconnect?

Are we becoming more liberated, or just increasingly self-centered and alienated?

What, really, are our moral, cultural, and spiritual foundations now?

We kill ourselves slowly, by eating too much or too little, becoming fat, or anorexic, or diabetic. Physically and psychologically we whither away in our culture of collective self-absorption and material sloth. And our boundless, insatiable greed now threatens to drag the entire planet down with us.

Meanwhile, in our eyes, the Islamist suicide bomber has come to epitomize ‘the terrorist’, a modern savage, a psychopathic degenerate utterly disconnected from any redeeming social or moral values. Yet, in fact, this ‘other’ is a man whose life revolves around the mosque, daily prayer, restrained dress, moderate fasting, a tight-knit family and community. When pushed to the limit, a committed Muslim may decide to sacrifice his own life, his own body, for what he sees as a greater social and spiritual good. Which one of us in the West will do this now?

This is the existential divide.