The Plight of Post-Modern Man (aka Nuclear Man)

“Nuclear man is the man who realizes that his creative powers hold the potential for self-destruction. He sees that in this nuclear age vast new industrial complexes enable man to produce in one hour that which he labored over for years in the past, but he also realizes that these same industries have disturbed the ecological balance, and through air and noise pollution, have contaminated his own milieu. He drives in cars, listens to the radio and watches TV, but has lost his ability to understand the workings of the instruments he uses.

“He sees such an abundance of material commodities around him that scarcity no longer motivates his life, but at the same time he is groping for a direction and asking for meaning and purpose. In all this he suffers from the inevitable knowledge that his time is a time in which it has become possible for man to destroy not only life but also the possibility of rebirth, not only man but also mankind, not only periods of existence but also history itself. For nuclear man the future has become an option.

“The prenuclear man might be aware of the real paradox of the world in which life and death touch each other in a morbid way and in which man finds himself on the thin rope which can break so easily, but he has adapted this knowledge to his previous optimistic outlook on life. For nuclear man, however, this new knowledge cannot be adapted to old insights, nor be channeled by traditional institutions; rather it radically and definitively disrupts all existing frames of human reference. For him, the problem is not that the future holds a new danger, such as nuclear war, but that there might be no future at all.”

(The Wounded Healer, Henri J. Nouwen, Chpt. 1, pp 6-7).


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