In “Economic Utopia And Spiritual Nihilism”, I tried to describe the my view of the culture. In short, I argued that the United States is a culture devoted almost entirely to economic efficiency and devoid of spiritual values. The paradoxical result is a sense of emptiness amid material plenty. In this blog, I want to suggest the way forward.
Nietzsche devoted most of his life to the discovery of a new code of values after The Death of God. He distinguished between Master Morality and Slave Morality and imagined the Eternal Recurrence. Could you say “Yes” to life if you knew everything that you experienced were to repeat itself eternally? In my opinion, we still have not found the way forward he sought. The religion of economic growth sufficed for the 19th and 20th centuries – but its limitations are all too apparent today.
My claim is that we need to rediscover the spiritual life after religion in order to move forward. Economics is important. As Michael Novak said: “Man does not live by bread alone – but he needs a little bread first to realize this”. We must satisfy our basic material needs before we can concern ourselves with our higher spiritual needs. I am an advocate of Capitalism. My point is simply that economic abundance is not enough for a full human life.
What else is there? While Americans spend hours in the gym sculpting their physiques, they spend almost no time sculpting their minds with intellectual pursuits like reading books, intellectual discussion and writing. While I concede that a healthy body is required for a healthy mind, it is only a precondition. While you can see people checking themselves out in the mirror at the gym and taking pride in their progress – rightfully so – you see nothing of the same in the intellectual sphere. And yet I have personally found my own intellectual and spiritual growth to be more fulfilling.
In addition to intellectual cultivation, there is spiritual cultivation. Mindfulness, self management, wise decision making, maturity. All of these are preconditions to another of the most rewarding goods available: nurturing and growth enhancing relationships. Too often Americans choose their friends and romantic partners based off economic status or physical appearance. But these are shallow – though not unimportant – things. The higher types of relationships require the intellectual and spiritual values in both parties. Because we spend so little time cultivating them, it’s little wonder that our relationships lack substance.
The economic system today is a thing of wonder unimaginable to previous eras. It is a tremendous accomplishment and one not to be taken for granted. But the next phase of human development requires the recovery of spiritual values. Without them, life will continue to be an endless rat race in pursuit of more and more material well being with less and less return.