the relentless quest for the center


“Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again.”

Anaïs Nin

I used to think society’s, or civilization’s, journey could be followed left to right, maybe not on a horizontal line, more like a roller coaster, but definitely like a timeline of sorts. I imagine I thought of a bit like continuous improvement, or progress, even if it had some fits and starts.

I do know we certainly talk about it this way. Agriculture revolution, industrial revolution, whatever revolution. Internet 4.0 <implying 1.0 and upwards>. And we relentlessly tie #’s to people to show “growth” on this semi-linear journey.

But I think I was wrong. Heck. I think everyone was wrong.

I actually think the better mapping of society and civilization is viewed like an atom.

Different cultures and people and ‘civilizations’ zooming around like electrons circling the nucleus.

From a grander narrative perspective this seems like I am suggesting who we were is what we are and what we will be. And, yeah, simplistically I imagine I am on some level. And if you buy that, conceptually, because all these electrons zooming around, because culture, and civilization, is made up of billions of ‘ones,’ it may often seem like we lose our ‘center.’

We really don’t.


We don’t.

The center is always there. It is solid. It remains, and will always remain, the compass for that which is right. The nucleus holds it all together. However. What circles the center, the billions of ones with different demands and different needs and different likes and dislikes all of which desire different accoutrements for happiness, they never remain still and very often collide with each other.

And exactly the same time there are media channels and advertising and movies and magazines all screaming at the top of their lungs trying to distract us from our center with slivers of less then meaningful distractions. Distractions that make us question our center or maybe what we think is important <which can be very different from our center>.

Let’s face it. some of the people circling the center can be real noisy shits. In addition, the shit that circles our centers can be noisy sonuvabitchs. All so noisy that, well, it can be the only thing you hear.

And therein lies my point.

I disagree with Anais. Society, or civilization, doesn’t lose its center.

It cannot.


Because the ‘ones’, the billions of electrons themselves, never lose their center.

Because we, the ones, the individuals, don’t lose our center it’s just that sometimes we lose sight of it. Or we just cannot hear it on occasion.

Or maybe we just don’t listen to it hard enough.

Or maybe it whispers to make it more meaningful for us.

I don’t really think it matters.

Because we don’t lose our center. The center is always there, it is within us, as individuals and as a whole. It is the 8 billion <give or take given the few raging assholes in the world whose center is in their ass> and it is within the ones and it is all the same center.

Call it the moral compass.

Call it the good that resides within everyone.

Call it ‘knowing what is right and what is wrong.’

Call it the soul of humanity.

But ever suggesting we lose our center?


We never LOSE it.

We may misplace it on occasion.

We may just not be able to hear it over the cacophony of Life.

But we never lose it.

Which leads me to losing sight of the center.

Society is an abstract idea grounded in concrete norms, principles and beliefs. The problem is that the world has become less and less concrete and more and more abstract. This creates a societal shift in which structures that bound some individual choices, institutions and guard the valuable repetitions of routines and patterns of acceptable behavior struggle to maintain their shape long enough to let society gain some shape and structure. The cacophony of the world, and some of the tools bludgeoning society, deconstruct time and space so nothing can settle. Open societies have always been vulnerable to those in power (hands of fate), but in today’s world, a globalized world with a myriad of conflicting ‘hands of power’, many of the past certainties just can’t be obtained. So society and social life retracts not to some ‘center’, but rather to safety (they are often not the same). People hide within tribes, live behind walls, carry guns, and start embracing a number of activities and habits which simply increase the sense of disorder in the world through the paradox that the individual feels they are building order. The problem is all of these actions and activities are a function of the fact that a sense of fear is embedded within, stifling our ‘center,’ and, simultaneously, permeating daily routines, attitudes and mindsets. Circling back to fate, this gives us a sense fate will always strike without warning and is indifferent to not only us, but the order and certainty we are trying to construct for ourselves individually. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that infinite progress becomes unattainable in this situation as we substitute an uninterrupted game of finite objectives and tactics and our dreams get smaller and smaller. This all gets compounded by a governing elite which encourages us to believe there is no possibility of existential security through larger collective actions and shared interests. Instead, they encourage everyone to focus on individual survival, i.e., everyone for themselves, all cloaked in self-responsibility and individual expression. All this does is increase fragmentation and continue to tear apart the basic principles of collective action and shared interests and that tears apart our natural, human, center. Paradoxically, this creates some significant issues for governance. By encouraging all of this, society no longer believes they can be protected by the state or, at minimum, they are unlikely to trust the protection offered by those governing. As a consequence, the citizenry will encourage lashing out with military force or simplistic things like tariffs or isolationism as a reflection of an acceptance that there are certain forces that they cannot control and even worse there are no longer any hopes to be able to subdue the forces which could infringe upon individual survival. This is a negative mindset, negative against globalization, negativity against collective interest, negative against interdependence, basically negative against anything that optimizes or maximizes potential progress and prosperity and certainly negative against our ‘center.’ This is a world of despair. As Oscar Wilde said: “a map of the world that does not include utopia is not worth even glancing at for it leaves out the one country at which humanity is always landing. And when humanity lands there, it looks out and seeing a better country, sets sail.” Progress always resides in the chase of utopias never the realization. A utopia is always simply just an image of another universe different from the existing universe we know, or know of. What does this have to do with a quest for center? Well. The center of our being, collectively and individually, relentlessly anticipates a universe originated entirely through human imagination and human betterment. If you seek to leave a universe of grindingly monotonous life, you must imagine another world. It is at our center in which this imagination resides. Ponder.

Written by Bruce