For the german philosopher Odo Marquard, the fact that we have so many name for the time we live in speaks for a indirect form of anonymity. He says that this is the reason why we find ourselves in “a crisis of orientation”. You are not sure if he is right. Maybe that uncertainty proofs him right. Some people tell you: “You look at your phone, have full bars, but no connection. You like post-industrial spaces even though you’ve never seen industry firsthand. You are aware that your eyeballs act like agents. You spend your hours syncing, sorting out the inner life of objects. That moment of intimacy when you look into the eyes of someone who is looking at you on a screen. The world has never felt more radically left or more right-wing reactionary. You are not your shirt or your religious affiliation. Transparency can’t hide the shade.” You are not sure what all that means exactly but it sounds legit, dystopian with a hint of redemption. For Marquard, our time is also what he calls “The Age of Unworldliness”. And this time it is a fresh blend between Utopias and Apocalypses, the moment where the instant expectation of either heaven or hell on earth form your perception of reality.
In the idea of progress for the sake of progression, you induce technology into every possible device. You compose big ideas. For Marquard it is, “the idea of mankind's self-improvement or even self-perfection: Everything gets better and better faster and faster, and may even soon, finally, really become good.” The old is replaced by the new, and the stupid by the smart, which is to say, concretely, the raw veggies which are surpassed by the mashed.
In short, the earlier, which is underage and immature, is surpassed by the later, which is adult and mature, and by the latest, which is most adult and most mature. (Odo Marquard, The Age of Unworldliness, 1984)
You could say that you are busily engaged in not being a child anymore. The adults are allowed to do all the fun stuff and you continually want to become more grown-up. At the same time everything is so much easier as a child. The world of your frazzled dad is fucked up and all those great ideas you had—they tear 'em apart. They expose you as not significant. You can go either into flight or fight mode. Ultimately it will not stop them from shutting you down.
Your ideas for the modern world are doomed to end a self-fulfilling prophecy. For Marquard it is “The idea of decadence and downfall, of mankind's self-destruction or even self-annihilation: Everything gets worse and worse faster and faster, and may even very soon, finally, really become fatal.”
You have heard that before? Indeed, there is nothing new in your inbox, even if the latter is full of spam. For Maquard the attempt of leaving childhood behind, the pattern of increasing maturity is the same, it is just looked at from another angle. Where we previously cheered like children cutting cake at a birthday party, we now moan like an exhausted Deliveroo rider facing flexible working hours, and no tip for cake. Hope is replaced by fear.
Seen in the perspective of catastrophe, the history of the world is the history of the decline that the loss of childlikeness represents. (Odo Marquard, The Age of Unworldliness, 1984)
Will you ever grow up? What happened in the 18th century is what can be described as the discovery of the child. Since then, Marquard says the child is regarded as the actual human, more pure and authentic. More cheer, less moan. Since then children and youth define the standard for what it means to be human. With the applause of your parents, you now practice the revolt—No more stale veggies, no more nine to five, no more survival, more self-fulfillment.
We do not lack childlikeness, rather, we have too much of it; for the rule, with human beings in the modern world, is that they no longer grow up, because this is the age of unworldliness.
Not growing up while everything else grows, will certainly produce unscheduled detours. Where everything changes ever faster, experiences quickly fade. You will have to rely on second-hand -experiences. You base our beliefs more and more on hearsay. Learning never ends. And when school is never over, the kids start getting restless, because they want to go home. Your perception of reality blurs in with fiction. Fictions and expectation of a more peaceful place, where belonging frees you from this demanding reality. Belong anywhere. But don’t think that this would be it. The long tail comes with a bunch of more issues at hand. Your willingness to accept illusion might save you those for now.
“What one expects then is just what one can no longer experience, which is familiarity or "at-homeness." The more this familiarity is no longer experienced, the more it is—impatiently—anticipated.” (Odo Marquard, The Age of Unworldliness, 1984)