“Cosmos is not Chaos, simply by this one quality: That it is governed.”
“Gluttony and mutiny are in his heart, and he has to be bribed by high feeding to do the shows of obedience.”
Thomas Carlyle, Later-Day Pamphlets (1858)
In our fallen condition, each of us hates life under law. We hate life under the law in spite of the fact that laws are the substance of the Cosmos in which we live, and move, and have our being. We hate them in the way that an insane mountaineer might hate the rope that holds him suspended over an abyss, or in the way that a shipwrecked sailor, utterly deranged, might hate the broken spar on which he floats.
We hate not only the laws of man that forbid our slaying those we hate, raping those we desire, and robbing those who have what we have not. We hate the laws of nature that say we must grow old and die, that the sea is not filled with lemonade, and that we humans are a motley, murderous and malodorous breed. We hate the laws of God that demand justice, first of all towards Him, and secondly towards our fellow man.
We call this hate our “love of liberty.” And I love liberty as much as you do because my heart is just as full as yours with hatred for life under law.
Carlyle called this mutiny, which is a good way of putting it. We are all of us mutineers who would put our governors and their damn laws in the longboat (and then fall upon one another), except for the fact that, in addition to hate, our hearts are full of gluttony. We are tormented by terrible appetites for food, for sex, for envy (which we call respect); and very few of us can satisfy these appetites without stinting our love of liberty that is, in fact, our hatred for life under law.
So we make “shows of obedience” and pretend to be loyal while nurturing hatred and rebellion in our hearts. Young romantics call this “selling out,” but it is really going undercover and taking up a sort of guerilla war against law. Irony is the secret handshake of these guerillas. It is our way to signal that ours is only a “show of obedience,” that the mutiny is not dead, and that the old hatred for law—excuse me, the old “love of liberty,” is as fierce and implacable as ever before.
We are, of course, deceiving ourselves about the implacability because we do not like to admit that we have been “bribed by high feeding.” We are actually worse than mutineers because we are essentially disloyal (which is to say, in our hearts), but we are too soft and sybaritic to suffer the hardships of an actual mutiny. In other words, we hate being governed by law of every sort, but our bellies will not let us go into full revolt.
The result of all this is that we are sham loyalists and sham mutineers, all at the same time. We are actors in a horror show of sham obedience and sham rebellion, all the while hating without harming and hungering without having. And all the while, I must add, loathing ourselves because we have yet to slit the captain’s throat or gorge ’till we are satisfied.
This, my friends, is what it means to say that we are fallen. We are cowardly rebels and greedy ingrates. We are worse than gluttons and worse than mutineers!