The Great Return

Can you feel that–that gnawing sense that the world is awry? That discontent incarnate seems to be teeming just under the skin of the world? If you do, you’re not alone. Many right now feel some sense that the calm their lives once had has dissipated and anxiety has replaced it. From Ukraine to Gaza, to inflation and the upcoming election, things just feel tense and uncertain. For all of the benefits modern American society provides, it seems that it’s left much of its populace with little happiness. As this growing discontent mounts, at what point will people say enough is enough? In my opinion, it’s already begun. The “Great Resignation” was a sign of this change. People who work in high-paying jobs woke up one day and realized that the security and luxuries the job afforded couldn’t purchase happiness and meaning. We’ve heard stories of someone quitting their six–figure job to become a potter or grow a farm, that returning back to simplicity was what they needed all along. They won’t be outliers. I believe we will see another wave, one that’s even larger than the “Great Resignation”, as the country continues its surging discontent.

That discontent is not new. It’s been around in various forms for millennia. In fact, it’s happened right here in the U.S. If you have that conscious sense that the world is spiraling, then you should be relieved to hear this: there is another way. Let me first paint an example:

In the 1800’s, as the territory of the United States of America slowly crept across the Great Plains, pioneering families were promised golden futures to take their lives to its frontier. Their presence would act as the foundation of civilization’s reach, footholds that many more would pass through. Of course, when those settlers arrived, they were often on someone else’s land. In the newly created state of Texas, the Comanche tribe had reigned for centuries. They were simple and fierce people, living with little technology, but much connection to the natural world. What they lacked in technical know-how, they made up for with ingenuity and spirituality. Life for them was acute. The Comanche’s territory spread from the Texas coast all the way up to modern-day Denver, Colorado; a distance of almost 1,000 miles. In this mass expanse, they ruled from their horses, defeated rival tribes, and moved their encampments with the seasons and buffalo. Being a Comanche would be an impossible existence for most modern Americans. The austere lifestyle of eating what you killed, moving constantly, and threat of war is unfathomable. However, this was essential to the Comanche culture. And for Westerners who fell into the tribe, they grew to love it, too.

When Cynthia Ann Parker was a child, her family’s outpost on the frontier was raided by Comanche warriors. The latter brutally murdered her family, but spared little Cynthia. Why? Not out of the goodness of their hearts, but because the Comanche were dwindling in population. The rough lifestyle didn’t lend itself to long, healthy lives. Their birthrate was little compared to other Native American tribes. They needed to maintain the tribe’s size. When Comanches would raid frontier outposts, they would typically spare children of a certain age. Infants they would murder. Late teens and above would receive no mercy either. But if you were old enough to walk on your own and not be fully imbued with the ways of the white man, you were not only spared, but welcomed into the tribe. 

Parker had parental figures in the tribe that looked after her when she was brought in. She eventually learned the Comanche language and their customs. For years she lived with the tribe. She had married a Comanche chief and had three children whom she adored. Twenty four years after her capture by the Comanche, Texas Rangers conducted a raid on the Comanche settlement in which she dwelled. The Rangers, seeing a white woman amongst a native tribe, thought she was a Comanche captive and “rescued” her from their clutches. Parker was then taken back into American society, a now totally foreign concept to her. She even forgot how to speak fluent English. The separation from her children and tribesmen became a cause of great suffering for her. She longed to be with her children and husband traversing the plains, to be back with her people

Parker sadly passed away a heartbroken woman. She had become a Comanche and left her American roots behind. She had found happiness and fulfillment on the plains, despite the struggle it was to survive on them. When brought back to modern and “civil” culture, she became distraught and unable to adapt. 

In a way, I think many are experiencing a similar distaste for Western society Parker did. In her Comanche life, she had enough. Today in the US, that is a foreign concept. Our cultural goal is to accumulate, to gather as many resources as you can to ensure your survival, others be damned. We no longer turn to our institutions in faith for they have betrayed us time and again, now openly. Their thirst for power is boundless and grows.

When one’s world view is this, how does it make any sense to exist inside of this society? So much of it is rife with things we reject, yet we don’t reject this way of living. This is where I think, one day, we’ll see The Great Return. I hold optimism that it will happen, that humans (and hopefully we’re alive to see it) find a better way of living outside of this system that so clearly benefits those who pull its strings. It will be like a movie changing themes in the middle of the script. 

The Great Return will signal a return to balance. Balance inherently requires that things are enough. We will be at balance with nature and with each other. I think this largely comes from technological advancement, ironically. When mankind can finally create its own resources and negate the need for war, when each person can exist without slighting another, this reality will manifest. This is completely aspirational and I know it, but to think that the world simply continues on this frenzied path is nihilistic. Nihilism, of course, is what’s smothering the reality that could be. When we accept the world through a pessimistic lens, we become the inhabitants of it. But if we return ourselves to the optimism we once had, The Great Return won’t be too far away.