Thoughts on Aurelius, Junger, and the question of how we can all get along

Last week, Steve and I were at Northern Arizona University. We were there to do a live recording of the podcast, and to engage a classroom full of mostly veterans in a discussion about what the humanities can teach us about getting along with one another in a diverse and heterogenous culture. We ended up talking a lot about the role of technology (of course), and also the fractured state of affairs. You can listen here:

In looking through my notes this morning, I found a few thoughts I’d jotted down earlier in the week, as I was flying back to New Mexico before heading on to Arizona. These aren’t edited in any meaningful sense, but do give a sense of some of the underlying questions and ideas that I had in mind sitting down in front of the mic.

How do we face a world that is heterogeneous?

How do we not just survive in such a world, but how do we thrive?

How do we do so while remaining true to ourselves?

Do we know ourselves? Do we know others?

How do we discover either?

> Marcus Aurelius had one answer.

> Sebastian Junger has another.

Both are within a humanistic tradition that struggles with that central preoccupation: who are we?

> The technologists have one answer.

> The humanists have another.

Also the issue of our culture as it is, and our culture as we would like it to be. What is our responsibility to engage with a broken world versus striving to change it? It sounds like a revolutionary question, and it is–particularly in a time where mass culture coexists with minority cultures.

Which gets to another question of whether or not these minority cultures are simply affectations that strive to accentuate meaningless differences. All of which is made more complicated because the alternative–a mass culture that pretends to be the greater and more authentic expression of who we are–is so corrupted by commercial, profoundly antihuman, and anticultural interests.


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