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Communist Manifesto:

Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

As many, many others have noted, one of the chief aims of liquid modernity is to remove all friction from the experience of life. Driverless cars. AI. Augmented reality. You know all the examples.

Do you know how many times I’ve had to work on my mom’s touch faucet? They’re a solution to a problem no one had. I finally just took off the electronic components and told her the touch feature was permanently broken.

One of the themes of Matthew Crawford’s Why We Drive and (to my recollection) Shop Class as Soulcraft is the docility being trained into humans with our ever-higher tech. He contrasts this docile type with “spirited” people—an apt word that has stayed with me recently.

It is characteristic of the spirited man that he takes an expansive view of the boundary of his own stuff—he tends to act as though any material things he uses are in some sense properly his, while he is using them—and when he finds himself in public spaces that seem contrived to break the connection between his will and his environment, as though he had no hands, this brings out a certain hostility in him. Consider the angry feeling that bubbles up in this person when, in a public bathroom, he finds himself waving his hands under the face, trying to elicit a few seconds of water from it in a futile rain dance of guessed-at mudras. This man would like to know: Why should there not be a handle? Instead he is asked to supplicate invisible powers. [Shop Class]

We need spiritedness. We need people who engage with the stubborn resistance of reality—not with arrogant willfulness but with curiosity and artistry cognizant of limits.

The world is too beautiful for a harsh asceticism. At the same time, the promise of a frictionless life is a lie—or, at least, it’s not a life. Beauty comes with burnishing.

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