Atlas Mugged

The following is an extract from the book ‘Breaking Together: a freedom-loving response to collapse’, where I discuss the potential meanings of the ‘Kintsugi Atlas’ image on the book’s cover.

The matter of the collapse of industrial consumer societies is not only extremely inconvenient for those of us who are enjoying its conveniences, but also deeply challenging philosophical and spiritually. After a few years of soul searching about aspects of our culture that are implicated in this tragic situation, I arrived at the paradox of our desire to ‘be someone’ and help each other. One way of describing this paradox is with Greek Myth. The image on the cover of this book is an adaptation of the oldest surviving statue of Atlas, a character from Greek mythology. From the 2nd Century before the Christian Era, it depicts him straining to hold up an orb, which in the contemporary era has been widely misunderstood to represent planet Earth. That misunderstanding may have begun in the year 1585 with the use of the word Atlas by Flemish cartographer Gerhardus Mercator, to describe his collection of maps of the world. On the inside cover of his book, there was a drawing of Atlas having removed the orb from his shoulders and mapping it in his hands.[1] With her famous book ‘Atlas Shrugged’ Ayn Rand may have misconstrued the orb as representing our world, and therefore used it to symbolise the weight of the world’s problems (such as parasitic bureaucrats) on otherwise strong and free people.[2]

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