A good deal of my life has been spent in a half-conscious search for places where a healthy person could function as a healthy person: places where health was accepted rather than resented, where it didn't have to be hidden.
Such places have proven to be scarce. The healthy man or woman is all too often taken as a threat, rather than a friend to perhaps learn from. This stems from the status obsession that has infested mankind. By it, another person's health undercuts your value as a person.
Perhaps the most common coping technique for this in our time is for people to overtly condemn anything they can brand as evil. (This is the root of polarized Blue/Red hatred in the US, for example. Each side is obsessed with the sins of the other.) Each time they can condemn evil, people feel they are rising incrementally up a moral status hierarchy. But in so doing, they are centering their minds on evil and corruption, which is toxic.
But please understand that, by "centering on evil," I do not mean that people are striving to beevil. What I mean, rather, is that they are arranging their minds and lives in reaction to evil. They endlessly uncover, define, catalog, and condemn all the evil in the world, and by doing so, darkness, fear, and threat become enthroned at the center of their minds. They see evil on every side and cannot conceive that a health-centric mind is even possible.
I am fully convinced that this is a devolutionary mentality. At first I grasped at this concept instinctively and intermittently, but now, at length, with some understanding.
It's not all that hard to define who is healthy and who isn't. A healthy person is kind, benevolent, curious, reasonable, and acts with integrity. An unhealthy person is conformist, legalistic, takes advantage of others, and enjoys belittling people and things.
We might add to these lists – and people do move between the categories at times – but I think a basic healthy/unhealthy divide is easy enough to see.
Fortunately for us, far more of us are healthy now than in the old days. Slavery is gone, justifications for cruelty are mainly gone, and people are simply better than they were centuries or even decades ago.
For this we should be thankful, but it also remains that millions of people, especially any who are noticeably healthier than their neighbors, are to one extent or another punished for their virtues.
Refuges, Old and New
For all the flaws and abuses of the churches of the West, it is true that churches have often been refuges for the healthy. Operating within a church, or at least by being associated with it, people could do exceptional things without being overly exposed to consequences. This was especially true during the most decentralized periods of Western history, including the eras when great talents were supported by clerics and nobles.
Even in modern times, church has been a safe training ground for exceptional musicians. In church, for example, the great singing voice was treated as a gift from God, rather than a threat to those less gifted.
Radical Christian groups have sometimes served as refuges, but only those that were sharply dedicated to following Jesus, "walking in the spirit," and so on. Put in nonreligious terms, those pursuits are simply "striving to become healthy." (Debating doctrines and rules are fundamentally otherwise.)
Some nonconformist groups were refuges as well. You can find coverage of this in issue #16 of our subscription letter.
Many good families have provided refuge of course, but existence apart from the family is necessary too.
The ability to be openly healthy (or at least smart) was often an underlying appeal of the cypherpunks.
The internet, particularly in its early days, provided a safe way to be healthy. It was far more anonymous in those days; as the joke went, "No one on the internet could know if you were a dog." Anonymous forums now serve the same purpose.
And finally, we now have a large and thriving cryptocurrency community, where talent is welcomed rather than resented. It is therefore no surprise that healthier-than-average people are gravitating toward it.
The status model destroys us all by inches, but the healthiest among us far more than others understand. Simply from a species-preservation standpoint, this is a horrible error.
Status, I maintain, is not hardwired into us. I think that's a false belief, and more than that, I think it's an excuse. We are better than that, and it's time we started acting like it.
So, find refuge as you can, my friends, but whether within or without a refuge, strive not to diminish yourselves.
* * * * *
A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:
I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I've read this book… I want everyone to read it.
Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people's conceptions.
There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.
* * * * *