Atlas Minor • Tired:
What is the best strategy for surviving the 21st-century? Does it require some sort of cool detachment? Bertrand Russell notes that Stoicism naturally took root during “a tired age” when Rome began to decay, a time when “the future, they felt, would be at best a weariness, at worst a horror. In a hopeful age, great present evils can be endured, because it is thought they will pass; but in a tired age even real goods lose their savour.” Philosophies such as Stoicism suit a tired age because “its gospel is one of endurance rather than hope.” Maybe we’ve entered an absolutely exhausted age. But here’s why I often turn to Russell for comfort: “There is, in fact, an element of sour grapes in Stoicism. We can’t be happy, but we can be good; let us therefore pretend that, so long as we are good, it doesn’t matter being unhappy. This doctrine is heroic, and, in a bad world, useful; but it is neither quite true nor, in a fundamental sense, quite sincere.” So I’m thinking about what it means to be sincere on and off the screen in 2021, which feels more productive than contemplating how to endure.