Autumn Thoughts on the European Sense of the Tragic and Our Mortality
by Andrej Sekulovič
Andrej Sekulovič explores the parallels between autumn’s transient beauty and the cyclical nature of European civilization, invoking the insights of Dr. Tomislav Sunic and classic literature.
When the days start getting shorter, and the summer heat slowly gives in to autumn’s chill, the misty mornings and the colder evenings remind us that another year is nearing its end. The surrounding nature gives us one last majestic spectacle of its beauty that has inspired countless generations of poets, painters, and writers. As the leaves turn their colours, the forests and wooded countryside are transformed into one great scenery of red and gold hues. The kind warmness of the autumn sun that replaces the excessive heat of the summer months invites us to the great outdoors, where we can breathe in the beauty of the natural world, and wonder at the supreme artistry of Mother Nature, which cannot be surpassed even by the most skilled artists among men. After this illustrious and enchanting explosion of colours that fills us with great joy, nature slowly retires to deep sleep during the dark days when Old Man Winter returns once more to reign in the cold months, which are also not devoid of a different kind of natural beauty.
It seems that autumn is the most suitable season for deep thoughts and considerations, for reflections about our past, our future and our existence. As the daylight slowly fades away week by week, we may notice that the darkness of the night is closing in. We may realise that it is not a bad idea to put on a jacket for our early Sunday morning hike or an evening walk, while only a week before we were comfortably strolling around in just a t-shirt. We feel the familiar fragrance in the air that fills us with a strange sense of nostalgia and a peculiar sense of our mortality, as we witness the falling of the leaves, and the calmness of nature while she prepares for her rest. Flocks of birds are flying to the south, and the crickets grow quiet in the countryside and our backyards. Everything passes with time, and the autumn season is the one where this becomes most visible to us.
As nature around us is lulled to sleep, we may become more aware of the tragic aspect of our existence – that we are the only beings on this Earth who are aware of their inevitable decay and death.
Thoughts of our own destiny may occupy our minds -- thoughts about our own autumn that must come sooner or later, followed by the final winter of our lives. What comes next? Do we disappear, and continue to live on only in the genes of our descendants and in the memories of our loved ones? Will they hold our names and deeds in remembrance? Or will those who prove themselves worthy enter the gates of Valhalla to feast and fight until they are called upon one last time to join the great battle on Vigrid plain as the world burns. Will we find ourselves in an afterlife, among our ancestors who will tell us the long tale of our past and history? Or will we appear before Heaven’s gates, awaiting the Final Judgement? It is no wonder that in various European folklores we can notice a common belief that in the autumn season, when the days grow darker, the dividing line between our world and the world of the deceased becomes blurred. Those are the days when we can feel the presence of our forefathers. Many such beliefs and customs have survived from the era of old folkish religions until today, sometimes under the new guise of Christian holidays and celebrations.
Autumn is a time of solitary reflections. As nature around us is lulled to sleep, we may become more aware of the tragic aspect of our existence – that we are the only beings on this Earth who are aware of their inevitable decay and death. We may try to avoid it until old age reaches us, but we cannot run from it. We must accept and embrace it just as our ancestors did. It is the cycle of life, as the father of European poetry beautifully expressed it almost three thousand years ago in the Iliad (Robert Eagle’s translation):
Like the generations of leaves, the lives of mortal men.
Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth,
now the living timber bursts with the new buds
and spring comes round again. And so with men:
as one generation comes to life, another dies away.
Aren’t the quiet autumn evenings most suitable to ponder upon such gems of Western literature? Aren’t the calm autumn days, when we may decide to take a walk in the nearby park or in the forests and meadows away from the city noise, most fitting for such reflections about the realities of our being, and the lives of our ancestors, of their hardships, joys and struggles? We can let our minds wander through history as visions of days gone by appear before us. Such wanderings may be similar to those of Frodo from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings in the second chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring, ‘The Shadow of the Past’: ‘He found himself wondering at times, especially in the autumn, about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams.’
Since the times of ancient Greece, the tragic aspect of our nature has played an important role in European myths and literature. In his two essays, ‘What to Read?’ and ‘Tragedy and Myth in Ancient Europe and Modern Politics’, which both can be found in his book Titans are in Town: A Novella and Accompanying Essays (Arktos, 2017), Dr. Tomislav Sunic gives us a further description of a certain sense of the tragic which is specific to European man. In the first-mentioned essay, he writes that ‘the sense of the tragic means that even when a white man loses everything and is bound to perish, he must continue fighting to his last breath’. And in the latter, he states that ‘the tragic person knows that the cosmic odds are never in his favor. Yet he continues to fight although he knows that he is doomed.’ He also offers some advice to Identitarians, suggesting that ‘in a way we can use this tragic rule in our own fight. Our chances of success in turning back the liberal end times are slim, yet we must continue to fight. Our struggle, as of now a cultural one, gives us at least some chance of success and a slim opportunity that the odds may turn to our advantage.’
It seems that such understanding and awareness of the tragic is anchored deep within the European soul, and the perceptions of Dr. Sunic remind us of J. R. R. Tolkien’s concept, which he called ‘the theory of courage’. Tolkien considered this concept to be the ‘greatest contribution of early Northern literature’. It represents the determination of the will to keep on fighting even when the odds seem impossible. Intermingled with Tolkien’s deep Christian faith and feelings of ‘hope beyond hope’, this attitude is reflected throughout his fictional works. And while in his case it was inspired mostly by the Northern European sagas, myths, and tales, it can be found in myths, legends and historical accounts of other European peoples as well. Surely, one of the most inspiring features of The Lord of the Rings is that we must not give in to despair and keep on fighting for what is right and just, regardless of the chances of victory or defeat, which in turn echoes the mentality of many renowned heroes of European history and folklore.
But as we reflect on such thoughts and delve into the great works of European literature and poetry, an important issue arises in our minds. What of our current state? What of our current civilisation and its modern inhabitants, who have seemingly forgotten about the great joys and tragedies of life itself? Some of them may still feel the beauty of it and yearn for it subconsciously. This would explain the popularity of some mythical and medieval themes in the entertainment industry, regardless of the superficial and often twisted form in which they are presented. But it seems that in his everyday life, modern man doesn’t really trouble himself with the higher purposes of life. As Dr. Sunic explains in another essay, titled ‘Myths and Mendacities’, which is also included in the aforementioned book, ‘due to the onslaught of the modern myth of progress, the quasi-inborn sense of the tragic, which was until recently a unique character trait of the white European heritage, has fallen into oblivion’. Modern man, a faithful follower of the secular religion and dogmas of liberalism, doesn’t want to think about the fact that one day he will die. He tries to avoid such grim thoughts, and rather ‘lives in the moment’. Such an approach, prompted by cultural nihilism and materialism, and promoted by consumerism, sees the only meaningful purpose of life in ‘having a good time’, which in the modern sense means an infinite pursuit in finding always new and exciting ways to satisfy our bodily instincts and desires.
However, just as Dr. Sunic points out, our predecessors were acutely aware of their own temporality and the tragic aspect of our existence. But for them, it was not necessarily a cause for despair. They were not demoralised by their mortality. Untainted by the materialism, superficiality and cynicism of our times, in their own passing from the theatre of life, which could be slow and gentle, but was often also quite sudden and brutal, they saw a driving force that encouraged them to overcome themselves, accomplish great deeds, and leave a legacy behind. They wanted their ancestors to be proud of them, and for their descendants to be inspired by them. They understood that they were but a link in a long chain of generations, and that they had to ensure the continuous existence of their people. They wanted to prove themselves worthy in the eyes of the divine forces, so they would be granted entry into their halls in the skies. They wanted to be immortalised in the great songs and tales of their racial and cultural community. In a sentence, they embraced their mortality and were strengthened by it.
As today this noble spirit of our race remains dormant, we must return to the question of what lies ahead of us in these troubled and insecure times. Are we witnessing the unalterable corruption and decline of the race which is responsible for some of the unmached accomplishments in art, culture, philosophy, architecture, natural sciences, and the field of technology? Were all the technological achievements and breakthroughs of the last hundred years just one final manifestation of the Faustian spirit of European man, akin to nature’s one last grand demonstration of beauty in the colourfulness of the autumn season, before the world becomes cold and desolate? Or will this spirit of overcoming oneself, of exploration and conquest, the spirit which enabled the modern mediocre masses to live safe and comfortable lives, while resorting to virtue-signaling by renouncing their ancestors and history, be reborn when the ice storms of deceptions, delusions, and self-destructive tendencies are swept away by the brisk winds of the new European spring? Can we see in the growing support for the conservative forces in some European countries the first signs of a gradual awakening and a forecast of a new Identitarian spring that will usher in a new era of our civilisation, in which European man will return to himself and his roots once again? Such are the considerations of the white man’s autumn once the white boy summer is over.
We are in a cultural war, and the main objective of those of us who can still appreciate the tragic and resolute nature of our people must be to arouse our fellow Europeans from their slumber and reignite the fire of our racial soul.
When we feel the autumn breath, which sharpens our senses with fresh air, we may realise that it is up to us to accept our ‘tragic’ destiny by keeping up the fight against all odds. We must return to the noble spirit of our blood, which has a a profound sense of the tragic. We must embrace our mortality, and let it harden our character and our will. By knowing that one day we will lose it, we can truly appreciate the life that was given to us on this Earth, and rejoice at the fact that we are, that we live, that we exist. For that, we can be grateful to a long line of our ancestors. Knowing that our time in this world is limited and that death awaits us all, we may strife to make it more meaningful, or, in other words, to live a life that is truly worth living. And what better way to make your life more purposeful than to engage in a cultural and civilisational struggle for the perseverance of your ethnocultural heritage through accepting your duties, both to your forefathers and to your progeny, and trying to ensure that once you are gone, your genes will live on in your posterity, which will carry on the torch of the cultural and biological traits that embody the spirit of Europe.
Finally, we must remember that autumn is also a time of harvest. As it is important for a farmer to harvest his crops before the winter, we must harvest our ideas, arguments, and opinions, and transform them into metapolitical instruments or weapons that will see us through the harsh spiritual winter, characterised by collective loss of memory, suicidal madness, and moral relativism. Culture has become a crucial battlefield of our current social and political landscape. We are in a cultural war, and the main objective of those of us who can still appreciate the tragic and resolute nature of our people must be to arouse our fellow Europeans from their slumber and reignite the fire of our racial soul. We have at our disposal a vast intellectual armory of the Identitarian Right, which in many ways represents the true heir of authentic Western thought. The wisdom of the past and the bold ideas of a new breed of thinkers and fighters will lead us in our quest to ensure that on the mighty Yggdrasil of our civilisation new leaves will grow green time and time again. And at the turning of each cycle, before they are scattered by the winds of time, they will remind us of autumn’s tragic and majestic elements.
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