Is modernity bad for practice?

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Indrajala » Fri Dec 14, 2012 5:50 am

futerko wrote:
Thrasymachus wrote:I am disgusted by modern society and modern people, it is all phoniness and phonies.

One often cited characteristic of modernity is the mistaken belief that one can somehow "stand outside" it and critique it effectively. The paradox here is that such acts of rebellion are exactly what fuels modernity by enacting the thoroughly modern illusion that one is somehow independent and free from the previously repressive social relations (such as in feudal times). What you have here is the modern stance par excellence, and your engagement with it on the basis of rebelling against it is precisely what catches you in its web and reproduces it.


Instead of pushing reform, it might be better to just abandon the monster and let it devour itself.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby PorkChop » Fri Dec 14, 2012 6:04 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:...nevermind thought better of it.

yeah, probably not worth it at this point.
i just can't take this conversation seriously.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Thrasymachus » Fri Dec 14, 2012 6:12 am

@futerko:
The modern stance par excellence is the want to consume and work as a disembodied being, without care for the consequences to oneself, other beings, or the natural world. Just a desire to make as much of the world, "me, mine", as possible as Charles Eisenstein often says. In another post, I quoted an excerpt of his that shows pre-modern societies did not necessarily believe in a discrete and separate self:
Charles Eisenstein wrote:The Ascent of Humanity: Chapter III: The Way of the World

We can hardly conceive of an origin of life that does not start with an original living creature, discrete and separate from its environment, because that is how we conceive an organism, a "being". ... The shaman Martin Prechtel speaks of a culture in which a person beseeching a medicine man to cure his ailing wife says not, "My wife is sick" but rather, "My family is sick."[V] The sickness is as much his own as his wife's. Or if a few individuals in the village are sick, he might say, "My village is sick." Even if a Western doctor might judge him a magnificent specimen of bodily health, he would not agree with the statement "I am healthy" because to him, "I" means something different than it does to us. Its boundaries are more fluid. For him to say, "I am healthy but my family, village, forest, or world is sick" would be as absurd as to say, "I am healthy but my liver, kidneys, and heart are sick." Someone immersed in such a culture might not see the appearance of a replicator as the key event in biogenesis at all.

V. Talk to the Green Gathering conference, September 2003.


@kirtu:
What people's intention is matters far less than the more powerful institutional structures they operate in. Even for the Western Buddhists, for example, in your case you seem to have a hard time arguing or thinking outside of yourself, and putting yourself in the perspective of others. People go to school because they are forced to or because they have heard the constantly reinforced, implied threat that the less education you have, the more your chances of suffering economically in this world. Instead you seem too caught up into your job role, and think you could or ought to teach people against their own wills, or that what you teach is even what they want or need. I believe that one man should have no authority over others, that those others don't freely assent to, and the position of a salaried teacher in public school, or even private school or university is against this principle. One of the characteristics of modernity is that people have a easy time ignoring how everything always leads to the cops or prison. When I was younger, I eventually stopped going to classes on many occasions and the cops showed up many times to force me back into the system. If you examine every other aspect of modern life, it always is so. The Lenape Indians who were destroyed and removed from where I lived, lived in simple easy to make dwellings. Now if you try to do the same, all the building codes that like school exists for your own good against yourself, makes such a lifestyle impossible. So while the Native Americans could build or rebuild their abodes in units of time best measured in weeks or months, today the average American if he is relatively privileged can perhaps dream that after 20-50 years he can pay off a super complex, life depleting home! Then the descendants of the conquerors joke amongst themselves that because they have a solar panel or a Prius, that they are green! It is easy to allege to be green when you destroy the people who better embodied that term.

My point on that last bit is that every fact is connected to every other. You may think, how is the legal school monopoly terribly relevant to that of building codes? But how could it not be? If people were not forced to be proletarians, many wouldn't be, they would take the avenue to drop out.

@My biggest detractor:
I believe people are responsible for what they do. You made a thread a while ago about your coffee addiction and what to do for it. Alot of people like me gave their suggestions for alternatives and reasons for why coffee is bad, but you just joked about it. Then amusing enough, shortly after you made this other snarky ageist reply to a thread I wrote about how modern medicine absolves people of personal responsibility for their health choices:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:... Amusing to me that 9 times out of 10 it is those who are young enough to have never needed any kind of triage medicine who make this sort of tunnel-vision argument about healthcare.


I believe anyone should be able to do anything providing they pay the actual cost of it. I think that is what your ax is against me. Unfortunately modernity exemplifies this mentality, that you can do whatever you want and even be assured the consequences will often be externalized.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby futerko » Fri Dec 14, 2012 7:36 am

Thrasymachus wrote:@futerko:
The modern stance par excellence is the want to consume and work as a disembodied being, without care for the consequences to oneself, other beings, or the natural world. Just a desire to make as much of the world, "me, mine", as possible as Charles Eisenstein often says. In another post, I quoted an excerpt of his that shows pre-modern societies did not necessarily believe in a discrete and separate self:


Thanks, I'll have a read of the whole book when I get a chance. I've only had a chance to have quick look so far - would I be right is thinking you favor a humanist approach?
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby futerko » Fri Dec 14, 2012 7:41 am

Huseng wrote:
futerko wrote:
Thrasymachus wrote:I am disgusted by modern society and modern people, it is all phoniness and phonies.

One often cited characteristic of modernity is the mistaken belief that one can somehow "stand outside" it and critique it effectively. The paradox here is that such acts of rebellion are exactly what fuels modernity by enacting the thoroughly modern illusion that one is somehow independent and free from the previously repressive social relations (such as in feudal times). What you have here is the modern stance par excellence, and your engagement with it on the basis of rebelling against it is precisely what catches you in its web and reproduces it.


Instead of pushing reform, it might be better to just abandon the monster and let it devour itself.


I suspect that this may well happen regardless, the only concern is just how destructive that process will be.
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Indrajala » Fri Dec 14, 2012 8:15 am

futerko wrote:I suspect that this may well happen regardless, the only concern is just how destructive that process will be.


As an individual you have options. If you're heavily tied in with your society and dependent on it (particularly emotionally and mentally), then when that ship goes down you'll sink with it.

I hear in the 90s a lot of people in Russia simply gave up on life. They still had food and shelter, but the shock of their social paradigm collapsing and all their dreams come to ruin was enough to throw a lot of people over the edge. They just gave up on life and faded away.

I see this now, too, in my generation. People get depressed when they realize they're not getting the same opportunities that they were promised as kids. As things get progressively worse (economy, environment, etc...) there will be a lot of people who just give up on life. I know one girl who is suicidal despite living quite comfortably. The hopes and dreams of the First World are becoming shattered.

This is why being spiritually and mentally strong is essential. When things get rough there will be no highly paid shrinks to prescribe you drugs.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Dec 14, 2012 1:29 pm

"modernity" isn't a thing.'
it is a relative perspective.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby futerko » Fri Dec 14, 2012 1:51 pm

futerko wrote:
Thrasymachus wrote:@futerko:
The modern stance par excellence is the want to consume and work as a disembodied being, without care for the consequences to oneself, other beings, or the natural world. Just a desire to make as much of the world, "me, mine", as possible...

One of the issues here is that it really makes no difference what "embodied" actual beings want because the disembodied universal abstract subject has become an institution, contractually written into Law, Human Rights, property relations etc. as if that "self" were an indestructible unchanging agency irrespective of specific "embodied" conditions.

The attempt to protect the rights of the individual is exactly what has brought about its opposite, so that given the inability to find this self anywhere, it has come to be represented by what is tangible - ownership of property and labor as a commodity, and whereas in Feudal times this relationship was explicitly repressive, in Modernity it is hidden and alienated - the truth of our social bonds lies in contractual property rights and employment law while our inner "self" appears as some transcendent, permanent, but utterly ineffectual "thing".
(Maybe that is why Modernity appears in opposition to Dharma, but also suggests the need for such an alternative?)
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Queequeg » Fri Dec 14, 2012 6:16 pm

Thrasymachus wrote:Infact your response consists mainly of emotional histrionics and failed irony.


I was taking the piss out of you. I see you're from JerZ - in more local colloquial terms, "I'm fuc-in with you." I wouldn't quite call what I posted, "emotional histrionics" - that might more aptly describe your writing - unless of course that's who you really are and you really do communicate like that without any irony - in that case... yeesh.

Did my irony fail? I dunno - let's see a show of hands - who got a chuckle out of my post?

I am disgusted by modern society and modern people, it is all phoniness and phonies.


Holden Caufield, is that you?

Today the average Western scum sympathizes with the poor only when it is acceptable: when rich, mostly white, attractive actors portray them on film. When they are not depicted in fantasy, it is always their fault somehow. Schooling and mass media delivered exactly what they were engineered to, it created walking zombies unable to think outside of the framework given to them by their overlords, but who cannot even notice this.


A lot of people here probably sympathize with the gist of what you are writing. But, when you sound like an ureformed, foaming at the mouth marxist - you play up to a caricature that very, very few in the grownup world can take seriously, and if they do, its because they're miserable misanthropes, or at least tend to speak and think like one, like you apparently do. Believe it or not, some of us folks have a few years on you - some of us were actually alive when Ellul published "The Technological Society" and have been aware of the problems you point to in the world around us - call it modernity or whatever - since you were grabbing for your mommy's teet, and when we were raising our fists, screaming about injustice and covering the back of our beat-up old civic in political bumper stickers, there were old timers who had been at it already for a long time, too. Look, some of us have lived our adult lives keenly aware of these problems and have been trying to do something about them - despite their overwhelming scale. Kristof, the author of the column I linked to, is one of these people. Admittedly, he is a softie; he has a great heart but is also in my view, a bit naive. I don't know if that's the character he plays for the editorial pages of the NY Times or if he genuinely is this bright eyed, stubborn optimist, even in the face of the tragedies he uses his column to draw attention to (that podium on the NYT opinion page has global reach. It presents an incredible opportunity to change the minds of the average layman you apparently so disdain. If he were to put on a red sweater, patched at the elbows and start screaming about the injustices of the world in the kind of moralistic judgmental and -ahem- histrionic tones you adopt, I don't think he'd have that job very long, and the world might be poorer for it. We'd be left with Maureen Dowd and David Brooks.). Some of us teach. Some of us heal. Some of us advocate. Some of us just try to be nice to each other. When you actually try to do something, actually try to heal ills, you find that a little bedside manner is critical.

When I see a column like the one I linked to, I don't see a rosy future. What I see is, in all of the data that is depressing, a promising trend that we kindred idealists can work with to try and solve these problems we see. If IQs are indeed rising, this is something we can work with. People's ability to rationally deduce information is improving? GREAT! Maybe if we put data about receding glaciers and the effects of carbon dioxide in the air in front of them, they'll be able to see the problem and its solution. Industrial farming is actually bad for us? Well, lets put the data in front of people. Maybe they'll be a little more conscientious at the supermarket next time. How about turning people on to the insight that grasping yields suffering? Imagine if more people had a deep understanding of that! The point of posting the column was meant to challenge the assumption of some in this thread that life is all shite and nothing left to do but escape into pining for some future primitive. But calling everyone names, judging them, etc., aint getting you any allies, and if any problems of the scale you are complaining about are going to get fixed - you're going to need a lot of allies.

I am happy to see you calling out Buddhists who use dharma and practice as means of escape - in my estimation, our kindred have been calling out fellow dharma seekers in a similar manner, possibly since the beginning, agitating for a more "engaged" practice.

The point is, don't be such a dick and let's see what we can do to heal this world. :)
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby deepbluehum » Fri Dec 14, 2012 6:56 pm

The blessings of the tantric path increase the worse the times get in Kali Yuga.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Queequeg » Fri Dec 14, 2012 7:05 pm

futerko wrote:One of the issues here is that it really makes no difference what "embodied" actual beings want because the disembodied universal abstract subject has become an institution, contractually written into Law, Human Rights, property relations etc. as if that "self" were an indestructible unchanging agency irrespective of specific "embodied" conditions.


This tension you refer to, "what 'embodied' actual beings want" v. "universal abstract subject" does make a difference. Its part of the reason the court dockets are overflowing. Believe me, jurists are keenly aware of the problems with the law. Some of us are actually aware that the problem is that the conception of the Self (Selfs because we can't really say that all laws uniformly take a particular idea of self for granted) embodied in laws is extremely problematic and for every problem we solve with a law, we know we create others. Still, we have to keep making imperfect laws to keep up with human behavior because if we don't - we definitely won't have justice - and that's really the point of law, right? At least in our system. The courts, especially in jurisdictions that continue the tradition of Common Law which employs the ultimate means of establishing Justice, the sword of Equity, are the means of keeping laws in check with lived reality. Its imperfect, but so are all human endeavors. Despite all the criticism, I think we do a pretty good job in the Anlo-American system.

Back in grad school, one of my two graduate theses I wrote was the incompatibility of Dharma and Human Rights. The problem with human rights, as you observe, is that at the most fundamental level, there is an assumption that rights flow from some essential nature of the person. Jeremy Bentham called this notion "non-sense on stilts". He advocated instead for social contract - a meeting of minds between people as the basis of justice. If we understand laws and rights as functions of social contract, these problems about the essential Self imagined at the middle of the rights rubric goes away.

You have to understand, though, that the concept of rights were critical expedients to counter the assertion of power embodied in an Absolute Monarchy - If God designates the rulers, then the only thing that can keep these divinely appointed sovereigns in check are rights that God appoints. The concept serves its purpose. Is it now detrimental? Well, that's kind of where Scalia and co. are going, but if you're a progressive, you may not want to give up "Rights" as a tool for justice quite yet.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Fri Dec 14, 2012 7:23 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Some of the most serenely pissed off folks on this board ;)

Rawr I wanna friggin' punch stupid modernity in it's ugly, dumb, oblivious face with a leaden bar made of pure enlightenment.


HAHAHAHAHAHA

:rolling: :rolling: :rolling:

A tiny, separate self, buffeted by vast impersonal forces, a victim, resentful, will of course seek to carve out a little space of security in this hostile universe. ... But it is precisely that alienation from the rest of existence that underlies the very institutions we are trying to bring down. Acting from alienation, can we hope to create anything but more alienation?
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby greentara » Sat Dec 15, 2012 1:42 am

This made me laugh! "In the Scottish highlands are the remains of some ancient habitation, the supposed dwelling of an ascetic monk, or 'self secluded' man, possibly a sulky egotistical fellow, who would not accomodate himself to the customs of his fellow creatures."
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby kirtu » Mon Dec 17, 2012 6:56 pm

I'm very concerned that upon rebirth I will effectively be separated from the Dharma for some period of time. In this sense, the advice of some lamas for Western practitioners to pray to be reborn in traditional Buddhist families (this advice was not unheard of in the 70's) is cogent. Modernity, with it's lack of introspection, assumption of identification with various identities and tribes, assumption of materialism and assumption of existentialism is extremely obscuring. There is no question that by the force of previous practice I will encounter the Dharma again in future lives but there is no guarantee that I will engage the Dharma again and not be swept away in the flood of ignorance engulfing the world. So really the only option is to consciously seek rebirth in the Pure Lands.

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby kirtu » Mon Dec 17, 2012 8:56 pm

The aspect of modernity of conformity bordering on unquestioning obedience, itself seemingly challenged by modernity (so perhaps a self-contradiction?) is another frightening aspect of human development. I come from a military family and was singled out early on as being "weak" and "a coward" for refusing to fight (although eventually I did have to fight other boys and I was forced into fighting family members, sometimes physically). This even though my family was highly educated for the time - both my father and mother had graduated from college, my father in fact taught as a military science professor as one of his duty stations as a military officer. However after my parent's divorce my mother seems to have reengaged models of lower class life (models that uncles on her side of the family sought to transform via Christianity). Hopefully nowadays pre-teen boys are not just going out into fields and punching each other out in some kind of animalistic status contest. But near unquestioning conformity extends far beyond pre-teen or familial structures. On my father's side I remember a Great Aunt asking me if I would be ready to fight in Vietnam (I was about 11) something my real warrior Great Uncle's never raised, ever although later when I was 13 for some reason my father, back from Vietnam raised the issue with me at the dinner table. It was difficult to tell them that war was wrong and their reactions were overwhelmingly negative. At one point my father even insisted that I abandon altruism (also about 13). Incredibly he was the crypto-Buddhist in our family, taking us twice to a well-known non-sectarian Buddhist temple in Hawaii (he only took us once to a Christian church), although he would have denied that he was Buddhist in any form (as it turns out, his view was basically that of General Patton as my father had what he describes as dreams as a child that could only be memories from a previous life). Conformity from my father and mother were certainly intended primarily to help us in life but they also formed inviolable barriers whose violation invoked serious consequences. Conformity from my step-mother and some others were clearly intended to only control.

This aspect of conformity still exists in our society and I suspect will subtly increase in some ways particularly for the triumph of the totally nihilistic view that will divorce humankind from creation of virtue ("all that stuff is BS - just live like you want"). Worse, totalitarianism isn't dead and could reassert itself with a not subtle but overtly violent and deadly set of patterns that will make thoughts of peace or altruism impossible a la 1984 (as illustrated clearly in the scenes between Richard Burton and John Hurt).

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby greentara » Mon Dec 17, 2012 11:05 pm

queequeg, "Kristof, the author of the column I linked to, is one of these people. Admittedly, he is a softie; he has a great heart but is also in my view, a bit naive" I agree with you, he's a 'nice' man but his column smacks of watered down outrage, or a water spout that ends in a trickle.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Tue Dec 18, 2012 3:32 am

kirtu wrote:The aspect of modernity of conformity bordering on unquestioning obedience, itself seemingly challenged by modernity (so perhaps a self-contradiction?) is another frightening aspect of human development. I come from a military family and was singled out early on as being "weak" and "a coward" for refusing to fight (although eventually I did have to fight other boys and I was forced into fighting family members, sometimes physically). This even though my family was highly educated for the time - both my father and mother had graduated from college, my father in fact taught as a military science professor as one of his duty stations as a military officer. However after my parent's divorce my mother seems to have reengaged models of lower class life (models that uncles on her side of the family sought to transform via Christianity). Hopefully nowadays pre-teen boys are not just going out into fields and punching each other out in some kind of animalistic status contest. But near unquestioning conformity extends far beyond pre-teen or familial structures. On my father's side I remember a Great Aunt asking me if I would be ready to fight in Vietnam (I was about 11) something my real warrior Great Uncle's never raised, ever although later when I was 13 for some reason my father, back from Vietnam raised the issue with me at the dinner table. It was difficult to tell them that war was wrong and their reactions were overwhelmingly negative. At one point my father even insisted that I abandon altruism (also about 13). Incredibly he was the crypto-Buddhist in our family, taking us twice to a well-known non-sectarian Buddhist temple in Hawaii (he only took us once to a Christian church), although he would have denied that he was Buddhist in any form (as it turns out, his view was basically that of General Patton as my father had what he describes as dreams as a child that could only be memories from a previous life). Conformity from my father and mother were certainly intended primarily to help us in life but they also formed inviolable barriers whose violation invoked serious consequences. Conformity from my step-mother and some others were clearly intended to only control.

This aspect of conformity still exists in our society and I suspect will subtly increase in some ways particularly for the triumph of the totally nihilistic view that will divorce humankind from creation of virtue ("all that stuff is BS - just live like you want"). Worse, totalitarianism isn't dead and could reassert itself with a not subtle but overtly violent and deadly set of patterns that will make thoughts of peace or altruism impossible a la 1984 (as illustrated clearly in the scenes between Richard Burton and John Hurt).

Kirt

Hello Kirt,

You've described personal experience with conformity in your family, but otherwise haven't touched on how conformity is expressed in modernity. Also, how does it make sense that nihilism would increase obedience?
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Tue Dec 18, 2012 3:48 am

jeeprs wrote:People [in modernity] generally have reduced ability to discriminate truth from falsehood, wisdom from ignorance.

Perhaps if you at least indicated some basis for this belief it could begin to makes some sense.

Indeed there is no concept of ignorance in the sense of avidya, in modern democratic liberalism.

Modern democratic liberalism is only one small slice of modernity, and it may indeed be too small a slice to include much of anything, relatively speaking. Many individuals who may be described as modern, democratic, and liberal, many be Christian, for example. Christianity, like all religions, has it's own beliefs about what leads to salvation and what does not.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Dec 18, 2012 4:46 am

kirtu wrote:Worse, totalitarianism isn't dead and could reassert itself with a not subtle but overtly violent and deadly set of patterns that will make thoughts of peace or altruism impossible a la 1984 (as illustrated clearly in the scenes between Richard Burton and John Hurt).

Kirt


"You're either with us or the terrorists." That was only a decade ago.

Reminds me of Starship Troopers:



It's a good day to die when you know the reason why...

The thing is that in the present day with modern education systems the state can mold and form the citizenry in a given direction, especially if they command the media. This is why you have soldiers willing to go and fight in some forsaken land and just get paid a monthly salary to do it (and even then the pay isn't that great). In the old days if you wanted to launch a war you needed to pay your troops and sailors a wage plus they got a part of the booty. Now people risk their lives for a job and more importantly a nationalistic ideology.

In premodern times men were more maverick in their approach to life. This is largely related to the fact that in the absence of universal education, there were a lot more regional and religious values that the state had no ability to control and direct. Industrialization really took off once they trained people from childhood to think of factory work as normal and only proper. It benefited the elites immensely, and the people got suckered into a horrid lifestyle that gave rise to industrialized total war (World War I is the prime example of what universal education and industry look like when combined for war).
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby jeeprs » Tue Dec 18, 2012 11:11 am

Huseng wrote:In premodern times men were more maverick in their approach to life.


Ah, but they were also much less likely to think for themselves. There was much less individuality and individual judgement. You were part of the family/tribe/clan.

I actually don't think you're correct in saying that modern people are more conformist than ancient people. Part of the essential character of modernity is the requirement for self-definition. In pre-modern societies, and even until the advent of modernity, your identity was very much defined by your place in the social order. Now you have to work out your own destiny, rather than simply go with what your ancestors did. This was very much the thrust of such modern classics as Erich Fromm's Fear of Freedom.

The real challenge of modernity is to be able to engage in this act of self-definition in such a way as to serve the purposes of spiritual liberation through a free act. That is the challenge of the age.
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