Since the middle of the eighteenth century,
beginning in Northern Europe and then spreading to every corner of the world,
people have become aware of living in an age radically different from any other
and which they have called — ‘the modern age’,
or more succinctly, ‘modernity’.
We are now all inhabitants of modernity;
every last hamlet and remote island has been touched
by the outlook and ideology of a new era.
The story of our emergence into the modern world
can be traced in a number of fields
– in politics, religion, art, technology, fashion, science –
政治 宗教 艺术 科技 时尚 科学
all of which have ultimately contributed to an alteration in consciousness,
This is some of what becoming modern has involved:
Perhaps the single greatest marker of modernity has been a loss of faith
– the loss of a belief in the intervention of divine forces in earthly affairs.
All other ages before our own held that
our lives were at least half in the hands of gods or spirits,
But we have put our energies into understanding natural events through reason;
there are no more omens or revelations,
our futures will be worked out in laboratories, not temples;
God has died and modernity has killed Him.
Premodern societies envisaged history in cyclical terms;
there was no forward dynamic to speak of;
one imagined that things would always be as bad or as good as they had ever been.
But to be modern is to believe that we can continually surpass what has come before;
national wealth, knowledge, technology, politics and,
国家财富 知识 技术 政治
most broadly, our capacity for fulfilment seem capable of constant increase.
Time is not a wheel of futility,
it is an arrow pointing towards a perfectible future.
We have replaced gods with equations.
Science will give us mastery over ourselves,
over the puzzles of nature – and ultimately – over death.
It is only a matter of time before we work out how to be immortal.
To be modern is to throw off the claims of history, precedent and community.
We will make our own identities
-rather than being defined by families or tradition.
We will choose who to marry, what job to pursue, what gender to be,
我们将自己选择结婚的对象 从事的工作 应该是什么性别
where to live and how to think.
We can be free and, at last, fully ‘ourselves’.
We are Romantics, that is, we seek a soulmate,
我们是浪漫主义者 也就是说 我们寻求知己
an exemplary friend who can at the same time be an intrepid sexual partner,
a reliable co-parent and a kindly colleague.
We refuse to remain in unhappy unions that no longer possess the thrill of the early moments.
We have had enough of the narrowness of village life.
We don’t want to go to bed when the sun sets
or limit our acquaintances to the characters we went to school with.
We want to move – along with 85% of the population of modern nations – to the brightly illuminated city,
where we can mingle in crowds, observe faces on underground trains,
try out unfamiliar foods, and sleep with strangers.
Premoderns lived in close proximity to nature;
they knew how to recognise shepherd’s purse
and make something edible out of pineapple weed.
They venerated nature as one might a deity.
But modern people don’t tremble before the night sky
or feel a need to give thanks to the rising sun.
We have freed ourselves from our previous awe at natural phenomena;
The emblematic modern location is the 24 hour supermarket,
brightly lit and teeming with the produce of the four continents,
proudly defying the barriers of geography and of the night.
We will eat pomegranates from Arizona and dates from the Sahel.
For most of history, the maximum speed was set by the constraints of our own feet
– or at best, the velocity of a horse or sailing ship.
It might take three weeks to tramp from London to Edinburgh,
four months to sail from Southampton to Sydney.
Now nowhere on earth is further than twenty six hours away from us,
the contents of a national library can fit onto a circuit the size of a finger nail
and the Voyager 1 probe hurtles at seventeen kilometers per second through interstellar space,
21.2 billion kilometres from us.
We are modern because we work not only to earn money,
but to develop our individuality,
to exercise our distinctive talents and to find our true selves.
We are on a quest for something our ancestors would have thought entirely paradoxical:
work we can love.
Much of the transformation of modernity has been exciting, thrilling even.
The word ‘modern’ still rightly suggests a state of glamour, desire and aspiration.
But the advent of modernity has – in many ways – also been a story of tragedy.
We have bought our new freedoms at a very high price indeed.
We can pick up on aspects of the catastrophe in a range of areas:
It was the French late nineteenth century sociologist Emile Durkheim
who first made the sobering discovery of an essential difference between traditional and modern societies.
In the former, when people lived in small communities,
when the course of one’s career was understood to lie in the hands of the gods
and when there were few expectations of individual fulfilment,
at moments of failure, the agony knew bounds;
reversal did not seem like a verdict on one’s value as a human being.
One never expected perfection,
and did not respond with self-hatred when problems occurred.
One simply fell to one’s knees and asked the Gods.
But Emile Durkheim knew that modern societies were far crueller
No longer could people who have failed in them, blame the Gods for their troubles.
It seemed as if there was only one person responsible
and sometimes only one fitting response.
As Durkheim showed, in perhaps the largest single indictment of modernity,
suicide rates in advanced societies are up to ten times as high as those in traditional ones.
Modern people aren’t only more in love with success,
they are also far more likely to kill themselves when they fail.
But modernity has told us that we are all equal and can achieve anything:
但是现代化告诉我们 我们都是平等的 可以取得任何成就：
boundless possibility seems to await every one of us.
We too might start a billion dollar company,
become a famous actor or run a country.
No longer is opportunity unfairly restricted to just a favoured few.
It sounds charitable but it is a fast route
to an outbreak of comparison – and its associated pain, envy.
这是一条捷径 而且其与痛苦 嫉妒相关
It would never have occurred to a goat herder in seventeenth century Picardie
to envy Louis XIV of France;
the king’s advantages were as unfair as they were beyond emulation.
Such peace is no longer possible.
In a world in which everyone can achieve what they deserve,
why do we not have more?
If success is merited,
why do we remain mediocre?
The psychological burden of a so-called ordinary life has become hugely harder
– even as its material advantages have become ever more available.
Modernity has in a practical sense connected us to other people like never before
but it has also left us emotionally bereft,
perhaps late at night, on our own, in a corner of a diner,
like a figure in an Edward Hopper painting,
The belief that we deserve one special person
has rendered all our relationships unnecessarily difficult.
The first question we are asked
in every new social encounter is ‘What do you do?’
and we know how much an impressive answer will matter.
We fall asleep in high-rise apartments
and wonder if anyone would notice if we died.
If it were not already so difficult, we are asked – on top of it all – to smile continually,
如果还不那么困难 那么-首先 我们被要求不断微笑
to hope against hope, to have a nice day, to have a lot of fun, to cheer on holiday
希望与希望成反比 度过美好的一天 有很多乐趣 为假期加油
and to be exuberant that we are alive.
Modernity has stripped us of our right to feel melancholy,
unproductive, surly, in despair and confused.
Not for nothing did Theodor Adorno remark that
modern America had produced one overwhelming villain:
Though modernity may have made us materially abundant, it has imposed a heavy emotional toll:
it has alienated us, bred envy, increased shame, separated us from one another,
它疏远了我们 引起了嫉妒 增加了耻辱 使我们彼此分开
bewildered us, and left us restless and enraged.
Fortunately, we do not need to suffer alone.
Our condition is at heart the work of an era, not just of our own minds.
By learning to diagnose our condition, we can come to accept that
we are not so much individually demented as living in times of unusually intense
and societally-generated trouble.
We can accept that in many ways modernity is a kind of disease
– and that understanding it will be the cure.
Our book, A Replacement for Religion, lays out how we might absorb the best lessons of religion,
update them for our times and incorporate them into our daily lives.