Cities! The Moon of Our Age
I wonder: is this the future the audience had in mind, cheering along to those visionary words of JFK in 1962? One could start listing examples of decadence—of how we've lost our way as a civilization. Perhaps more tellingly, however, is a pondering: when was the last time a politician spoke with such vigor about anything even remotely as ambitious as going to the moon?
Heroic Projects as Value Clashes
One has to serve. The choice we have is a cause by choice or a cause by chance. Make your frame or get it passed down. By your parents, boss, society, etc.
A heroic life is a life in service of values. But values clash (it's what they do), so will you have the energy and courage to honor them? Will you assert your frame, or cave in to the outside world?
The stoner might convince himself he values another hit. The alcoholic another glass. These people cannot be heroes because they lack structural integrity. They are not captains of their ships.
But if you stick to your guns—at some point (especially if you happen to find yourself within a decadent society)—you might clash so hard that you cannot continue life as normal. And so you are called to a heroic project.
A heroic project is a way to immortality. Not in the reductionist sense of eating metformin pills, but by eternal glory in the minds of descendants. By taking on a heroic project, one not only escapes the present refrigerator hum of existence, but one also candidates for future minds, centuries ahead.
So the hero is immortal, but it does not drive him. The hero takes on his project because refraining to do so would violate his integrity, and he might as well cease in the instant.
The City Problem
In the leading startup city's own words:
Our civilization is unwell. We eat food that kills us, we’ve lost sight of beauty, and we neglect our spiritual lives. The world is deranged and decayed, and this frightens people. We don’t look up from our screens; we seek to live within them.
Praxis is a heroic project because it is founded on values—more specifically, the value of vitality—and modernity presents an obvious clash. I think they are trying to revive a vision of the future of the kind that JFK evoked in his audience.
The city problem is unique, because whilst contemporary moon missions exist—lack of community and quality of life is something that affects every person, right at this moment. Furthermore, there can only be so many SpaceXs; but if one is to believe prophets like James Dale Davidson and Balaji Srinivasan, we will be needing a lot more startup cities like Praxis going forward, as the nation state continues to crumble.
Washington, Not Walden
At what point do you begin anew? Maybe we'll look back at current cities like a barbarian relic from the past. "We used to live like ants!" Maybe it's just villages from here. Either way, not trying to solve for better ways of living together, is at this point rearranging deck chairs when the titanic is sinking.
If you're building rockets, you get a pass. If not, think about real estate, food supply, governance, etc. Amid seed oils and TikTok, don't let the seductive fantasy of Walden seduce you—let the vigor of Washington inspire you! Here is a heroic project up for grabs for the free-spirited individual. Cities! the moon of our age. Don't retreat, start a city.