I am going to write a sentence in a moment.
But first, I want you to imagine a bowl of soup. It is savory and hearty, prepared with great importance out of the finest picks from a carefully kept garden. Bathed in fresh stock. Well portioned and memorable.
It is prepared in a little farmhouse in the middle of a field. Behind the farmhouse is a coop where the chickens that provided the meat for the dish and for the stock were raised. A garden tended with a steady hand that produced bok choy, carrots, some potatoes. Onions or leeks, perhaps. Fruit. It is a plentiful garden and a plentiful supply of chickens.
The bowl of soup is a timely meal for the hands working at the farmhouse for two reasons: first, because they have endured a day's worth of labor and are hungry. The soup provides ample nourishment for them. Their task today: harvesting and preserving the bounty of the garden, and shoring up the walls of the chickens' coop.
The meal is timely for a second reason: the soup is hot and winter will be blowing at the door before long. The season is changing and the hot soup soothes in the way warming by the fire would.
Fortunately for the hands at this farmhouse, they have grown enough to last the winter. They will have meat and eggs, vegetables and fruit. Milk from the family dairy cow.
The laborers have endured a day's work and are hungry.
The soup is hot and winter will be blowing at the door before long.
Some months into the winter, though, they find that it is harsher than they could have predicted. The farmhands cannot run for supplies, so they make due with the things they have already.
Soon, their palates ache for something besides the soup that once satisfied them. It is plenty to nourish them, but they seek something else. They have forgotten the soup and have grown tired of the ingredients they'd worked so hard to store and savor.
The sentence I am going to write is this soup, made from important, nourishing ingredients. We are the hands in the winter. We've perhaps heard this sentence's song but have forgotten its meaning. We've recited the words without remembering what they say. I will tell you the sentence, and then we need to talk.
The unexamined life is not worth living
Socrates uttered these words some hundreds of years before a man who was killed for disrupting a religious system disappeared from his grave. They were recorded by his disciple and remain to this day.
Several thousand years before now, with you staring into the blue light emanating from your palm.
Several thousand years before we lost our collective minds.
The World's a Stage
The hottest ticket in the theaters of major theater towns in this country tells the story of one of America's first ideologues. It chronicles the heart behind a revolution, the story of men who stood for things, rightly or wrongly, and were willing to stake their careers and families on them.
The show inflates the positive, desirable attributes of this man and diminishes the less-so. This is fine. It is theater. It is an artistic recreation meant to inspire those watching to be their own Alexander. To be in the room where it happens.
Audiences stand to their feet and clap, but they have another show to get to. It's their show. They itch to switch their devices off of airplane mode so that they can again return to their own stages. Their own stories, in which they inflate their positive attributes and diminish the undesirable ones.
In which they are the name on the marquee, in which people capital-c-Care about the things they think, the things they wear, their brunch, their hair, their complexion.
In which people hear their ideas and recognize them as the enlightened ones. The one worth writing songs about. The horseback-mounted hero slaying giants. A generation of Don Quixotes, of Marilyn Monroes, of Voltaires, blind to their windmills, their drug addictions, their fortune built on scammed lottery tickets and fake names.
Highlights for the good.
Filters for the bad.
Rose glasses for the eyes.
We, the people, decry battlefield wars and wage it instead on Twitter. We build men of straw with enough likeness to be recognized, run them through with swords blunted by misuse, and call it victory.
We are the heroes, and those who oppose us are the villains. We are Jonathan Harkers; they, the Counts.
The old soup is stale in our mouths. Yes, we've heard, the unexamined life is not worth living. But look at our examinations!
Hear how our shouts resound in our echo chambers!
See how our Instagram stories shine!
Marvel at the caffeination of our wokeness!
Look on our works, ye mighty, and despair!
The world's a stage, but we're one-actor plays in the center of the stage's lights. There are none remaining for the chorus behind us, none in the audience watching, for those who could be there are on their stages, too. But none of us notices our empty arenas; we cannot see past the splendor of the spotlight in our eyes.
I, the Marcher
In Charlottesville, Virginia, an army of sorts marched with tiki torches and crew cuts, some packing handguns, some sporting actual swastikas, but all armed with the same thing: absolute certainty that they were in the right.
Some aspect of themselves was threatened enough by something on the outside that the proper response was to defy counter-protestors and shout, "Jews will not replace us."
Most looked on in something like amazement. Something like disgust. An ideology once denounced globally as an actual evil had taken shape in front of the television cameras and VICE reporters and become a body. It marched and spoke and danced its way out of the past.
It was met by people of myriad backgrounds, noticeably more varied than the snake winding its way to wrap around a Confederate monument. They were armed with counter-chants: "Black Lives Matter!" "Punch a Nazi!" Some held signs, some held cameras. They were all armed, however, with a similar item those they opposed wielded, too: the absolute certainty that they were in the right.
Imagine this. Hundreds of people, each thinking different, but the same, things: "They are evil; I must resist."
Somehow, that is what we have become. Individual actors on individual stages, lumped with people who think our side of the lava moat is the sturdy one. Virtue-signalers on the right and on the left, standing defiant against the evils of the opposite.
They are evil.
I must resist.
Let's perform a brief thought experiment.
I wonder how many people act, knowing full well that they are wrong? Is there one blog written, one post tapped out, one photo shared by someone who is undeniably certain that they are not justified?
Of course not. For every Hitler, there is a Kampf. For every Bush, a 9/11.
Here is something I am reasonably sure of. Whether they be marching Nationalists in Charlottesville, protestors outside of an abortion clinic, extremists wearing suicide vests, or a restaurant owner refusing service to someone on the basis of their skin color or sexual orientation, they all share something else, besides the thought of "I am in the right." More precisely, they share the lack of something.
None looks across the pit and they says, "That could be me."
I could be that teenager holding up the convenience store across the street.
I could be that trans-man on the verge of kicking the chair.
I could be the one believing I'll be transported to paradise for ridding the earth of a gathering of infidels.
If the circumstances were only slightly different, I could be the one leading millions of those I deem unfit to a gas chamber.
There is no conclusion, yet.
We're still in the thick of a harsh winter with only the supplies we managed to gather before the snow hit.
We can take heart, though: the soup is still on, it is still hot, and, no matter which side of the aisle you occupy on whatever issue it is, it will warm you if you let it.
We at the Coffee Break Collective have been in a period of regrouping during the past months. Over the next weeks, we will be releasing a few important items that have been in development during that period, all of which are directly related to issues raised in this article and those like it:
The Cost: A series explaining our core beliefs
The Next: A vision of the future
The Mile: An ongoing, objective exploration of the issues that divide us.
The Twelve: The CBC is producing a Podcast with investigative journalist Shelton Brown regarding the mysteries surrounding the Twelve Tribes, a Jesus-hippie community shrouded in secrecy and hounded by controversy.
We hope that you will come and sit by the fire with us.