LARPing Traditional Life

Everyone operating in this corporatist-consumerist market culture is about the business of identity curation or personal brand development. The only market choice not available is opting out. So, this culture full of options is an imposed obligation on us—as much so as the way of life in any other time and place. This is the present warp and woof of reality.

I’ve grown increasingly convinced that everyone is ultimately live-action role-playing or “LARPing” to one degree or another. Yet given the obligatory nature of this culture, our LARPing is ironically authentic living under the broader environment’s impositions.

I’m even convinced that some American Christians doing their “Trad” thing aren’t really doing what premodern Christians where doing when they did the same things. Lenten practices come easily to mind. Choosing to do Lent and choosing what we give up isn’t really traditional Lent. It’s ecclesiastical “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore.

And I’ve pondered the same thing about a conservative Christian movement embracing traditional marriage with single-income households and large homeschooled families as a countercultural strategy. Is it the development of a particular brand? If it’s consciously countercultural, then it’s hardly the native obligatory culture of the premodern world.

In a premodern pre-industrial world, human society consisted of traditional households integrating domestic and economic activities of families as the way of life. If for no other reason, marriages and large families were for economic and physical survival. This is the way things were. There was no other option.

Now, we don’t actually have households. We essentially have residential shelters for the evening. Economic life has been exported to industrial corporations. Marriage and large families are economically de-incentivized and frowned upon in many ways.

We’re a highly mobile population. We’re rootless nomads lacking permanence and multi-generational community as we roam the interstate career landscape with our chosen and permitted Significant Other as our only emotional anchor.

Choosing and attempting to get out of all that—opting to wed, grow a large family, settle somewhere, encourage others to do likewise, build community and various other vaguely reminiscent bits of a traditional past—is a different experience and practice than having it be the natural order of things.

I’m not saying don’t do it. Or that it’s illegitimate. It’s just a different lived reality than it was for those who actually lived centuries ago, because it was arrived at differently.

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