10 February 2011

Two Very Different Changes of Era

Well, folks, now I'm back to blogging. We have been iced/snowed in for days here in north Texas, giving us a chance to finish up some projects on the house. That's why I haven't been writing. Now we're thawing out, which is a good thing.

Back to the end-of-era business. I won't bore you with a long disquisition, but rather I will make a couple of points. The era of classical antiquity began to come apart for good after the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. He set up his son, Commodus as next emperor. Commodus was cruel and despotic, so much so that the army had him killed and proclaimed the next emperor. For the next 120 years, Rome suffered one military coup after another. Things looked better when Constantine took control but he ended up dividing the empire in two and after him things went from bad to worse. All the great civilization of antiquity had run its course and people thought it had no more to offer. It was 1000 years before western Europe began to recover.

The High Middle Ages marked the comeback of western Europe. First, the feudal system established a level of security and stability that had not been known for centuries. A money economy began to grow, universities were established, and technology began to boom. In the middle ages they invented eyeglasses (allowing aging scholars to continue their work), water mills, the windmill, the sextant (allowing sailors to cross open waters), mechanical clocks, and the printing press with movable type in the 1450's. By then, both technology and commerce had developed to such an extent that the medieval world view (land, community, the spiritual, and a hierarchical society) no longer matched the reality. In other words, the medieval period was so creative that what it created put an end to medieval thinking.

As I said in an earlier post, we are unmistakably at a change of eras because the old modern world view (1450 to 1900) no longer matches the realities created by technology, consumerism, and mega cities. The question is: Will this change mark a destructive decline as happened in antiquity or does it lead to a new creative period? It is not at all clear which it will be. All we can say for sure is that the technology created at the end of the modern period has made the modern world view obsolete.

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