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"Perennial Philosophy, Buddhism, and Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen"

The whole world is in flames, the whole world is consumed by fire, the whole world trembles. - Buddha, Samyutt., 1.133

One of the most evocative figures in the history of art is Richard Wagner. Wagner composed many extraordinary operas within his time, yet one of the most monumental productions of his is The Ring of the Nibelung. With The Ring, Wagner attempted to create a national epic for the German people formed from several texts of Nordic and Teutonic sagas and folk-tales. In doing so, Wagner not only revived an ancient, traditional way of life, but he also infused several modern elements with these elder worlds. One of the greatest influences on Wagner throughout his life was his interest in India and the Orient, which preceded the further encouragement of this interest by the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. Though the interpretation of Eastern philosophy has often been erroneous, in Wagner's time this was mainly due to the general lack of authentic translations or any at all. Wagner seems to find common ground between ancient German and Indian Traditional culture (both being scions to an original Indo-Germanic culture) - for instance, the notion of gradual decline of the gods throughout the Ring and the forewarned destruction of Walhall. This decline is one of the major facets of the Eastern religions - the belief in the cyclical nature of history which begins with a "Golden Age" and ultimately decays internally to an age of cultural fragmentation and decadence, the last cosmic age before the end of civilization. This last age, known as Kali Yuga to the Indians and ma-fa to the Chinese, was known as Fimbulvetr to the Norse, and the following cosmic destruction was known as Ragnarok or Götterdämmerung, the doom of the powers. In addition to the non-creedal (or non-dogmatic) Pagan remnants of ancient Teutonic spirituality in the Ring and the inclusion of Aryo-Indian spirituality (which differ only superficially), elements of modern philosophy may also be found in his Ring. This is significant because the core tenet of Perennialism is that the Perennial Philosophy is a "[...] common inheritance of all mankind without exception [...]" (Coomaraswamy). All major religious traditions originally extend from this Perennial Philosophy, which has become misrepresented, distorted, and ultimately forgotten over time by all except for esoteric and mystical sects which have retained this tradition. Perennialism not only includes the Pagan religions of India and ancient Europe, but also Middle-Eastern religions, including Christianity. However, aside from the underlying Christian aspects, modern philosophical influences are also seen in The Ring, most notably the influence of Arthur Schopenhauer, whose philosophy of the denial of the will to live was supported by the examination and unfortunate misinterpretation of Buddhist and Brahamical beliefs by himself and other earlier Oriental scholars. Although many of Schopenhauer's interpretations were off, his most important contribution to philosophy was a reintroduction to Western thought of a system of cosmic ideology, which greatly influenced Wagner's works, including The Ring. This paper will attempt to analyze some of the Perennial aspects of the Ring which are derived from its Indo-Germanic spiritual basis, including European Paganism and Indian Buddhism, within the light of modern Schopenhauerian philosophical components which were introduced to the opera via the composer himself, Richard Wagner.

A basic understanding of the Perennial Philosophy must be in place before considering its significance in the works of Richard Wagner. According to Aldous Huxley, the Perennial Philosophy in its entirety cannot be verbally expressed without some form of bias on the part of the speaker, whether sociological or personal. However, despite the uncertainty brought about through many different interpretations, there is an underlying "Highest Common Factor" of the most important religious and philosophical movements over the past twenty-five centuries (xi-xii). In his introduction to the Bhagavad-Gita, Huxley posits four fundamental doctrines of the Perennial Philosophy, the first of which is that there is a Divine Ground of which "the phenomenal world of matter and individualized consciousness" (xii) are manifestations. "Being" for all manifestations is derived from this Divine Ground, and without it these manifestations would not exist. The second doctrine asserts that man is capable of realizing the Divine Ground through "direct intuition, superior to discursive reasoning," uniting "the knower with that which is known" (xiii). The third doctrine affirms two natures of man: a "phenomenal ego" and an "eternal Self," the latter being of the "same or like nature" as the Divine Ground. In Hinduism the spirit (Atman) is identical to the Divine Ground (Brahman); in Christianity, however, the human spirit is not identified with God, but "assimilated and purified." Unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground can be achieved only in overcoming the cult of personality, which prevents awareness of one's inner being. The fourth doctrine is the assertion that this unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground, the "discovery of Truth," is man's single, ultimate purpose in life (xv). Huxley states that "contemplation of truth is the end, action the means." The modern, industrial world, however, contradicts this. With the developments in technology over the past few centuries, Western man, in particular, has come to believe that life itself and all of its components, including society and culture, is being made to be continually and progressively better. Thus a "Utopian future" becomes the center of man's concerns, instead of an ever present and eternal Truth which need not be manufactured but rediscovered through personal experience. The fourth doctrine of the Perennial Philosophy is reversed from seeking the discovery of unitive knowledge with the Divine Ground through achievement, to contemplation and discovery becoming the means to achievement (xvi). This "heresy" is one that is widely accepted, and becomes entrenched in the mind through media, education, and politics. Because the "metaphysical discipline of discrimination between the real and apparent [...] is exceedingly difficult," a fifth doctrine concerning Incarnations of the Divine Ground is most often included with the Perennial Philosophy. This Incarnation reminds other humans what they have forgotten: "if they choose to become what potentially they already are, they too can be eternally united with the Divine Ground" (xvii).

The doctrine of the Perennial Philosophy can be found at the base of all of the world's major religious traditions, including various forms of Paganism, which would include Hinduism, Shintoism, and pre-Christian European heathenism. Thomas Carlyle states that while some scholars today may consider the Pagan religions of the past as "mere quackery" or the allegorical "play of poetic minds," what we regard today as Pagan mythology was originally to a "rude" Norseman the beholding of the "great deep sacred infinitude of Nescience," the organic function of Nature-Universe or the Divine Ground ("Lecture"). Being unable to express themselves in the "scientific" terms modern man does, but possessing the "free open sense of a child," the Pagan mythological world was reality for the first Pagan thinkers. The gods are "impersonations of the visible workings of Nature" (Carlyle). For these men everything was a reflection or manifestation of the Divine Ground, and nothing reflected this more than man himself, particularly the great man. Thus began the practice of Hero-worship, "heartfelt prostrate admiration, submission, burning, boundless, for a noblest godlike Form of Man" (Carlyle). Of all the gods, Oðinn or Wotan is the impersonation of the Noble Man. He realizes the true nature of the universe, the Divine Ground, and has come to identify himself with it, transcending all other manifestations of it. It is through his foresight and meditation that he is able to lead men and enforce his "will," or to be more specific, the impersonal Perennial doctrine, with his spear, Force. With recognizing the divinity of Nature and Man comes realizing the transience of the world as a manifestation of the divine, like the flux of the Rhine, a continuous process of becoming and ending. Even civilizations and the entire cosmic order must end, and this is what is known in Germanic mythology as Götterdämmerung. Carlyle states that the ancient Germans realized that "all dies, and even gods die, yet all death is but a phoenix fire-death [...]." Although the established order ends, eternal principles remain. Götterdämmerung begins after the end of an age of cultural decay called Fimbulvetr, known in Hindu cosmology as Kali Yuga, in which the basic foundations of a civilization or society, Perennial Doctrine, become so obscured that they are negated or reversed. For instance, with the establishment of industry, commerce, and technology as the highest values in the West instead of such things as culture, spirituality, and nature, these latter values become poisoned and Truth becomes something which is not eternally present and able to be realized, but something in the future waiting to be established or experienced. Perhaps this is why so many people around the world feel the appeal of the ancient Greek, Roman, Indian, and Scandinavian epics: they realize the truth in Perennialism/Traditionalism, the sacredness of Nature, the divine spark within Mankind as a part of Nature, the cyclical pattern of history, ever establishing and re-establishing Tradition followed by gradual decline, an archetype engrained in what Carl Jung would call the "collective unconscious."

One of the most renowned contributors to Traditionalism (or Perennialism) is the esotericist Julius Evola, an Italian baron whose primary works were written in the first half of the 20th Century and pertain to a vast area of subjects, including politics, philosophy, religion, and history. One of these works includes an analysis of primitive Buddhism, intended to be offered as an alternate spiritual way to self-discipline and heroic action for mankind in the age of Kali Yuga. Jean Varenne, who wrote the introduction to Evola's The Doctrine of Awakening, takes notice to compare Evola's aristocratic background and the noble origins of the Buddha, Prince Siddhartha (Varenne xvii). Varenne also points out that Evola takes a very scholarly approach in his gathering of large numbers of original Pali sources, which is the language which the Buddha spoke (Varenne xix). Few religions have been able to express the Perennial Philosophy more clearly and holistically than the Brahmanic religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Although the doctrines of the Perennial Philosophy are evident in the many different cultural manifestations of it, the Brahmanical religions, most importantly early Vedism and early Buddhism, provide some of the oldest methods of ascesis for obtaining what is known as self-mastery, the unconditioned, nirvana. This awareness begins with the realization of samsara, the world of becoming, of "experience itself, consuming itself in its own momentary content" (Evola 44). The process is continuous, yet it is "a succession of states that give place to one another according to an impersonal law, as in an eternal circle" (44). Each individual life is recognized as khanda or santana, which are understood to be a conglomeration and a current respectively, and dhamma or dharma, defined as "factors or variables of existence that apply, or which have particular values, at each instant" (Everett), and which Evola describes as formations of "vortices or currents of psychophysical elements and of allied states" (45) that are built up under certain conditions and later dissolve once these conditions change and conglomerate at some other point in samsara. From this comes the Buddhist saying in the Dhammapada, which Evola quotes: "'All the elements of existence are transitory' ? 'All things are without individuality or substance'" (45). Evola asserts that upon achieving samsaric consciousness, the illusion of the "I" is realized as "a flux, current or indefinite series of insubstantial states determined by dukkha" (56), which roughly translating as agitation, suffering, or restlessness (49). After samsaric consciousness is "mastered" one can find the passage to the "unconditioned and extra-samsaric." (56).

Much of the information which Evola presents comes from some of the earliest Buddhist texts, such as the Sutta-pitaka and the Samyutta-nikaya. However, during the time of Richard Wagner, many of these texts were not available. Because of the lack of earlier Buddhist texts and the often inadequate translations of the available texts, the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer misinterpreted and misunderstood much of Buddhism, which is not entirely his fault, since these "Pali texts that fully expounded the philosophy of dharma [...] were not translated into Western languages before the end of the century" (Everett). Schopenhauer's philosophy is based around the denial of will to live, which "does not in any way imply the annihilation of a substance; it means merely the act of non-volition: that which previously willed, wills no more" (Schopenhauer 61). Schopenhauer interpreted the Buddhist concept of nirvana as a state of non-being, whereas in actuality, nirvana is not a state being or not-being, and is technically impossible to be explained directly. This misinterpretation in turn misled those influenced by Schopenhauer in how they regarded Buddhism, who would include not only Friedrich Nietzsche but also Richard Wagner. Indeed, Wagner was very much influenced by Schopenhauer, of whom Wilhelm Halbfass speaks of, in his India and Europe, as "the only philosopher whom Wagner really recognized" (124). Although Wagner had previously been exposed to Indian thought, especially through Indologists, such as his brother-in-law, Hermann Brockhaus, Wagner found within Schopenhauer " a metaphysical key to his own artistic endeavors" (Halbfass 124). Indeed, Wagner had planned to compose a Buddhist opera, Die Sieger, which was to be based off of the Sardulakar?avadana of Buddhist lore, however this venture was never fulfilled (Halbfass 124).

Nevertheless, due to the inaccuracy or Schopenhauer's interpretation of Brahmanical and Buddhist religion, such as the interpretation of nirvana as a state of non-existence, is essentially false because, as a dharma, nirvana is something which exists, even though it is "intrinsically undefinable and inexpressible" (Everett). In a letter to his father-in-law, Franz Liszt, written in 1955, Wagner states:

This act of denying the will is the true action of the saint [...] it is ultimately accomplished only in a total end to individual consciousness -- for there is no other consciousness except that which is personal and individual [...] in truth they were striving only to achieve the destruction of their own individuality, i.e. their existence. This most profound of all instincts finds purer and more meaningful expression [...] in Brahmin teaching, and especially in its final transfiguration in Buddhism, where it achieves its most perfect form. - Wagner, Letter to Franz Liszt, 1855

The fundamental error seen in Wagner's understanding of Buddhism is that he accepts "individual consciousness" as the only consciousness, whereas in the documents Evola has researched, the individual and individual consciousness are mere currents within the continual flux of samsara. Wagner, as well as all other Westerners of his time, had no knowledge of the Buddhist notion of the unconditional, or what Aldous Huxley would refer to as unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground, which is continually reflected and made manifest within the physical world. To Wagner, then, the destruction of the individual, or the removal of the cult of personality becomes an end in itself rather than a step in the process to contemplation of a higher Truth, similar to how Friedrich Nietzsche tried to describe nihilism not as the end in itself but a tool used to distinguish mentally-contrived illusion from reality. With the convergence of Paganism, Perennial Philosophy and Buddhism with Wagner's Schopenhauerian denial of the will, one is spiritually torn between the implications of Wagner's pessimistic ideology of redemption of the will to live found within The Ring and the original overarching significance of the Nibelung epic as the affirmation of life through transcendental realization of the "will" or the "I" as subject to a higher force.

Although the later personal philosophy of Wagner seems to be a fatalistic one of redemption and denial of the will, the intrinsic Perennial aspect is a positive one which recognizes a transcendent force "connected with the emotive and irrational energies [...]" that " [...] gradually identifies itself as the very force that rules the profound functions of physical life, over which the 'will,' the 'mind,' and the 'I' have very little influence, to which they are external and on which they live parasitically [...]" (Evola 55). The fatalism of Wagner, which can be otherwise characterized as a negative nihilism, is a very pronounced feature within the Ring, becoming particularly evident within the character of Wotan. Wagner's Wotan brings forth into being through his "will" Walhall. However, in making a contract with the giants upon his spear, he promises Freia to them. It is with this error that Walhall, and the reign of the gods, comes into being. This is reminiscent of Wagner's accounting of the Brahmanical myth of the creation of the world:

[Brahminism] puts forth a myth in which the world is created by God; but it does not praise this act as a boon, but presents it as a sin committed by Brahma for which the latter atones by transforming himself into the world and by taking upon himself the immense sufferings of the world; he is redeemed in those saints who, by totally denying the will to live, pass over into nirvana, i.e. the land of non-being, as a result of their consuming sympathy for all that suffers.
- Wagner, Letter to Franz Liszt, 1855

In creating the world, Wotan commits a sin, an error, and through Wagner's interpretation of Brahmanic myth, Wotan too must atone for this sin, putting the "immense sufferings of the world" not only upon his shoulders, but upon the shoulders of his offspring, the Wälsungs and the Walkyries. Although Wotan often interferes, he cannot achieve total redemption unless some saint should totally deny the will to live without intervention. This brings about the question of who in Wagner's Ring this saint is. Siegfried and Brünnhilde are the two most likely candidates since the entirety of the epic is balance upon them as the final two major characters in the opera. Although Siegfried bears the sufferings of Wotan greatly, he is heroic in nature: he asserts the value of life as a whole, neither as a path for individual material gain, nor a great cosmic blunder for which mankind must atone. He has spent his entire youth within the forest, which as an organic system of order is one of the most supreme examples of the hierarchical cosmic ideology of the Perennial Philosophy. From his experience in the forest he would certainly have a greater natural wisdom or, more appropriately, intuition of the cyclical, sa?saric nature of existence, and from this understanding he is able to transcend the "individual" and attune his eternal Self with the Divine Ground. It is only through intoxication from the nepenthe given by Hagen to Siegfried that he makes a tragic error.

However, on the other hand with Brünnhilde there is much to suggest the role of the saint. Everett points out that Wagner, being "under the influence of Indian thought" changed the ending of Götterdämmerung. In the original text Brünnhilde claims to know everything, meaning the circumstances of Siegfried's death; however, in the 1865 version, ten years after his letter to Liszt, she "declared that she became die Wissende [the Knowing One], which, Carl Suneson suggested, we are to interpret in the Buddhist sense of a bodhisattva." Wagner clearly expresses his idea of the Buddha in reference to one who redeems Brahma in his letter to Liszt:

The Buddha was just such a saint; according to his doctrine of metempsychosis, every living creature will be reborn in the shape of that being to which he caused pain, however pure his life might otherwise have been, so that he himself may learn to know pain; his suffering soul continues to migrate in this way, and he himself continues to be reborn until such time as he causes no more pain to any living creature in the course of some new incarnation but, out of fellow-suffering (Mitleid), completely denies himself and his own will to live. - Wagner, Letter to Franz Liszt, 1855

From these two pieces of evidence one is able to infer that Brünnhilde is intended to be the saint upon whom the redemption Brahma and the world is fulfilled. In her self-immolation she returns the ring to the Rhinemaidens, ending the curse which had caused so much pain to the world. It is in these actions of ending suffering and the denial of the will to live that Wagner intends for the world to be redeemed.

Upon noting the origins of this saintly woman, Brünnhilde, one also finds an uncanny connection. Her father, Wotan, "raging or possessed," the warrior-artist on whom the redemption of the world is placed is confronted with the wise Erda, who is a Wala. The term "Wala" is rooted in the Indo-Germanic "wal/walh-," which signifies someone or something that is strange or foreign, and specifically for a German - a non-German. This encounter of Wotan with the Wala could perhaps be a symbolization of early encounters of the ancient Germans with the Celts, the bearers of an ideological system which very much paralleled that of India. Yet even beyond this, perhaps there lies a metaphor for Wagner, as Wotan, and his own encounter with India (Erda). A romantic nationalist such as Wagner, taking upon himself the embodiment of the consciousness of the German race, would most certainly consider the Indians as "Walh" much like ancient Germans considered their Celtic neighbors "Walh," and from which the names Wales, Wallonia, and Wallachia come. It is from this love affair between Wotan (Wagner) and the Wala Erda (India) that Brünnhilde, the Saint, the path to the redemption, is born, much as Wagner's discovery of the Eastern religions and Schopenhauer's pessimistic philosophy prompted him on the road towards the denial of the will to live.

However, Wagner cannot achieve his ultimate goal of redemption with a fearless, life-affirming hero such as Siegfried, who has shattered the corrupt law of Wotan with his sword. Therefore it is necessary for the Hero to be introduced to fear, and it is through the love of Brünnhilde that this occurs. Love, in the end, is what brings the Hero to his death, and through love the Saint denies the will to live and redeems the world with her self-immolation and the return of the Ring to the Rhine. This redemption of the will through love is found throughout many of Wagner's other operas, such as Tristan und Isolde, however, some propose that one of the main reasons Wagner never completed his Buddhist opera, Die Sieger, is because of his failed attempt "to correct the philosophy of Schopenhauer so that it would accommodate the possibility of a total pacification of the will through love" (Everett). Thus, this gradual advance toward the abandonment of redemption through love not only takes a pessimistic turn in The Ring, with the utter destruction of an entire cosmic order, but actually may have led to the prevention of one of Wagner's intended creations.

Of this turning toward redemption and denial of the will to live which occurred towards the end of Wagner's life, Friedrich Nietzsche said: "There is nothing on which Wagner has reflected so much as redemption: his opera is the opera of redemption." (459-60). It is uncertain whether or not Wagner intends the raising of a better world, a new Golden Age, out of the ruins of Walhall. However, it is certain that to the original Pagan authors of the Nibelung saga embraced the Perennial Truth and the cyclical view of history, that from the ashes of the previously fallen civilization and cosmic order only those who are the most heroic will arise with a "new-birth into the Greater and the Better! It is the fundamental Law of Being for a creature made of Time, living in this Place of Hope" (Carlyle). Although Wagner intends to introduce Buddhism as a path to the negation of the will to live, it is with the utmost irony one finds that being interpreted properly through the earliest texts and accurate translations, as Evola has done, Buddhism itself affirms Life on a holistic, transcendent level, even further affirming the Pagan Perennial element of the original myths from which Wagner derives his Ring. In Wagner's opera the burning of Walhall and the destruction of the entire cosmic order is redemption and denial of the will to live, the passing into what Wagner perceived of as "non-being." In connection to the several leitmotivs in The Ring, it is also interesting to observe that in a note preceding Julius Evola's The Doctrine of Awakening, an anonymous editor comments on how many of the Buddhist teachings are "set forth in the form of leitmotif [...] passages that recur in various texts, almost in identical form" (v). One of these repeated symbolisms is that of the "burning world," which Evola has commented on and explained as symbolizing the driving force behind samsaric existence, a sort of craving and thirst. With the Perennial perspective in mind, one is able to draw a deep insinuation from The Ring: in the gradual decline of Wotan from assertive and heroic to withdrawn and fatalistic, so too does civilization decline from its Golden Age to a period of decadence which eventually consumes itself with the fire of desire, aversion, and delusion. Yet this fire, tanha, is the "central force of samsaric existence" which is also found "in birth and death, in decay, in every kind of pain and suffering" (Evola 49). As surely as the world burns it will give birth again to a new age, but it is only through the actions of the transcendent Hero, through whose actions contemplation and discovery brings mankind in union with the Divine Ground and we enter a new Golden Age.

Works Cited:

"A Note on Sources." The Doctrine of Awakening: The Attainment of Self-Mastery According to the Earliest Buddhist Texts. 1943. Trans. H. E. Musson. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1996. v.
Samyutta-nikaya. Trans. C. A. F. Rhys Davids and F. L. Woodward. Pali text ed. 4 vols. London, 1923.
Carlyle, Thomas. "Lecture I. The Hero as Divinity. Odin. Paganism: Scandinavian Mythology." On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History. May 5, 1840. Rpt. November 1997. ProjectGutenberg.com. http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext97/heros10.txt
Everett, Derrick. "Wagner, Buddhism and Parsifal." (2003). http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/india.htm#Buddhism
Evola, Julius. The Doctrine of Awakening: The Attainment of Self-Mastery According to the Earliest Buddhist Texts. 1943. Trans. H. E. Musson. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1996.
Halberfass, Wilhelm. India and Europe: An Essay in Understanding. New York: State University of New York, 1988.
Huxley, Aldous. "Introduction." The Bhagavad-Gita. Trans. by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood. New York: Signet, 2002. 11-22.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. "From The Wagner Case." The Portable Nietzsche. Ed. and trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Viking/Penguin, 1988. 459- 461.
Samyutta-nikaya. Trans. C. A. F. Rhys Davids and F. L. Woodward. Pali text ed. 4 vols. London, 1923.
Schopenhauer, Arthur. "Essays and Aphorisms." Sel. and trans. R. J. Hollingdale. London: Penguin, 1970.
Varenne, Jean. "Julius Evola and Buddhism." The Doctrine of Awakening: The Attainment of Self-Mastery According to the Earliest Buddhist Texts. 1943.
Trans. Guido Stucco. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1996. xvii-xx.
Wagner, Richard. "Letter from Richard Wagner to Franz Liszt, 7 June 1855." Selected Letters of Richard Wagner. Tr. and ed. Stewart Spencer and Barry
Millington, London: Dent, 1987. Rpt. 2003. "Wagner, Buddhism and Parsifal." Derrick Everett. http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/india.htm#Buddhism. - unzeitgeist


"The Development of the Ego"

It is said that man's best bet on survival is to adapt, and that I wholeheartedly agree with. But what is adaptation from a spiritual aspect? Isn't it submission under the laws of nature, denying of the absolute worth of self? It certainly is, to the horror of the "modern individualist", who seeks to assert his own ego and belief of his intrinsic uniqueness, like so many others.

Self-image, the ego, most likely developed when nature couldn't rule with such an absolute power over the tribes of ancient times and these tribes then found themselves distanced a bit from nature, not being so entirely dependant on it anymore, although not fully free either. Of course, the ego wasn't totally nonexistent during those more "shamanistic" times but it wasn't as strongly underlined and placed high on a pedestal as it is nowadays, due to the "misty" connection with the land: the sources of food were not permanent due to depletion or the fleet feet of wild game following the turning of seasons. To the hunter-gatherer tribes of old, adaptation was the way to go and the only thing egoistic in that was that of tribe serving the best interest of the tribe itself.

The introduction of agriculture struck a wedge between man and nature, although a miniscule one compared to the jackhammers of today. Man "found" himself through being capable of more than mere survival and realized that there is something that cuts through the wind when standing against it: him. He desired change, he was passionate to carve his mark on the stone of eternity. And so, the people of that time were idealistic to a degree: "Victory or defeat, I will nevertheless push forwards!" That was, and is, the only way to achieve true change. One must be like a vector, pushing towards a certain direction, steadfast and never loosening grip on one's axe to achieve. Anything else would have been adaptation, incompatible with such a culture focused towards triumphing. Although the difference was not this stark initially, it developed and grew. however, as all things cycle and morph all the time and nothing stays static, these striving cultures created civilizations and these civilizations, well, built upon themselves, towering far above the ground. So, we are being distanced from our surroundings, further and further every passing day - a far cry from the pre-agricultural mentality of people. But surely not everyone is a vector in today's world? No, not everyone, as there are many who simply choose to adapt to the status quo, which may be an unconscious remnant from the ancient times; the phrase "to go with the flow" applies in both the social and metaphorical contexts. In other words, they might themselves feel like vectors, but when the pretense is stripped they move nowhere by themselves on the system of coordinates, perfectly adapted to their immediate surroundings like a driftwood gently rocking between two waves in a stream.

In the other end of the spectrum there are the tower-builders, who lay stones upon stones to rise higher, although the spot where they laid the stone foundation has not moved anywhere over the course of centuries, and how could it have? You cannot pull a thread from a fabric without breaking it up, can you? As colossal as the change brought by cultivation of land was, still it did not free people from the cycle of seasons, the winds of the world; much in the same manner, our current towers sway by the passing of these winds, regardless of their age. It's only that gusts of air are not so evident up in the skies, far above the clouds, until they pummel the tower itself.

Vectors make change, static dots adapt to their position. The forces in power push us upward on this narrow path, perhaps toward a looming black hole and the fortified focus on individualism keeps us blind from what happens in our surroundings: is the building on which we build on already weak and fragile, destined to crumble from piling even one block on it? We do not know nor care, we only want to toss a dozen blocks on it. Would it be reasonable for us to strive to adapt to the land surrounding this tower, to be a countering force as even the chances of mere survival look frighteningly dim? - frostwood

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