সহজ লোকের মতো কে চলিতে পারে।
কে থামিতে পারে এই আলোয় আঁধারে
সহজ লোকের মতো; তাদের মতন ভাষা কথা
কে বলিতে পারে আর; কোনো নিশ্চয়তা
কে জানিতে পারে আর? — জীবনানন্দ দাশ (বোধ)
Who can be a simple man.
Can navigate in this confusion
like a simple man; Can talk like them
anymore anyway; Any certainty
who can know anymore?
A recurring idea in modern writings, literature or scholarly, is the spiritual crisis of the modern time. The implication of this crisis is something we have yet to explore much.
The origin of this crisis is in the rise of natural science. Physics (especially astrophysics), and evolutionary biology, had put organized religions in a tight position. Now the faith has been demolished for a modern person, intellectuals found themselves deeply disturbed. This phenomenon worked across the globe, and that's also at the same time. Jibananada felt it as much as Pessoa did (though they reacted differently in some important details).
The most obvious effect of this crisis is the disorientation, the emptiness left by the dead faiths. Joseph Campbell has expressed the implication of this void quite succinctly in The Power of Myth:
Pessoa, though, told us something about how the modern thinking persons felt about it:
Pessoa chose to defend faith in The Book of Disquiet though. But it didn't come naturally and was in stark contrast with his scepticism:
This doublethink says something about the magnitude of the problem. The faith have something to say about how to cope with death and our temporality.
Campbell was silent, Jibananada lamenting, Pessoa was confused.
On the other hand, the solutions of the crisis are numerous. Some philosophers worked their way to build new paths. They are a very differently aligned lot. The significance lies in their lifestyle. Faith, or spirituality, had very different meaning to them than the classical one.
Russell was one of them. His deep passion for logic, and the ability to invoke them efficiently, bloomed into a life view simple, pretty much independent and self-sufficient:
Carl Sagan is another, and a more poetic one. He built a whole modern system of living in the Cosmos, Pale Blue Dot, and other writings. Where Russell insists on a progressive system of moral, Sagan gives us a live example of how we can work on such a system practically:
The emphasis on love and knowledge is also dominant here. Curiosity took the place of the disorienting emptiness left by the dead faith. The psychological shift is fundamental. It is not like Campbell, Pessoa, or other modern intellectuals were completely ignorant of such ideas. They were just caught between the transition. Also, the mass people are still largely faithful. So, they found themselves particularly alienated in respect to the mass.
See this and the following passage from Importance of Dying ↩︎