As I was writing A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, I felt an overwhelming need to put everything I had into the book. (That’s the way you feel when you’re very serious about such things and you’re not sure you’ll ever write another book like it.) So, I included several essays that I cared a great deal about.
Now, however, as I’m getting ready for a second edition of the book, I’m pulling the essays back out. A novel is best standing on its own, in my opinion. And so, I’ll publish the essays here from time to time, starting with “The Gospel of Radicalism,” which was the first of them.
Just a few hundred years ago it was a standard medical practice to bleed sick people, to make cuts in various parts of their bodies and to drain blood from them. Most people submitted to this useless and frequently harmful treatment without question.
Would you have been one of them?
What do you think of the bleeders? Does it seem to you that they were from a primitive and ignorant age? Well, guess how your descendants are going to think about our generation in a few hundred years! Unless you can break from the clamor of popular opinions, you are doomed to that fate.
All of the social, sexual, and political norms that people now hold dear will someday be gone and will look as archaic as praying to the gods of wind and rain. Rationalize anything you want, but most people are living in ways that will be pitied by future generations. The fashion of this world will pass away. And it will not be missed.
Look at our history: 6,000 years of wars, famines, epidemics, and nonstop emotional misery. Dear God, isn’t it time to question the rules we’ve been living under?
At some point, shouldn’t it become obvious? How much misery do you need before you start to ask hard questions? Shall I recite statistics to you of how many millions of people were violently killed in the past century? How many millions were starved to death by the authorities that ruled them? How many people – probably billions – who are emotionally damaged to the point of reduced function? What will it take? Are you in so deep a fog that you will never question whether something is fundamentally wrong?
Humanity in our time remains in infancy. We are essentially unlimited creatures, yet we have been wallowing in abject poverty – physically, mentally, and spiritually.
We have natures that are suited to high adventure, yet we remain stagnant. Why? Because we’ve been conditioned only to exist, not to live. That conditioning was imposed upon us as weak children, then reinforced during many years of compulsory training. After a while, we learned not to buck the system and eventually to find a safe place within the social order. We are afraid to venture too far out. The powers that be make sport of ruining people who venture too far out of bounds, so we stay safe and ignore our selves in the process.
Safety is a fine thing to choose when you are five years old but not when you are grown!
Your life is too valuable not to be lived. By virtue of being a healthy human, you have what seems to be unlimited potential. Why the urge to sit quietly? Why the fear of movement and expressiveness? Why the paralyzing fear of being different?
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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.
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