Nowhere generation

My North American generation may be the first in the history of the world to raise indifference, boredom, infidelity, and aimlessness (except in the cause of vanity) to the status of virtues. We bridged the gap between a generation for whom it was cool to have questions but no answers, and a generation now nearing the drinking age who don’t even care about the questions (the devolution, one feels, was inevitable). Our standard response to anything deeper than People magazine is a thoughtful, “Whatever, man.” Should it vex anyone that this seems pretty well to exhaust our philosophical arsenal (and our convictions), we would admonish him to relax.

The average young man today is an emasculated nitwit. He has three things on his mind: cheap sex, easy money, and his own importance (whether expressed as a superiority or an inferiority complex is immaterial). What he lacks, poor fellow, is manliness: the character, principles, and learning that might qualify him for a family’s affection, an employer’s confidence, or the barest responsibilities of leadership. Not that this troubles him, particularly.

What of the average young woman in my generation and beyond? There will be little left of her when, in twenty years, the makeup finally gives out. Something about an entitled diva wannabe in a middle-aged body is really unattractive – but how long did we expect the veneer to hold up without any real womanhood underneath? You can’t paint on virtue. You can’t paint on wisdom, a willingness to learn what truly matters. You can’t paint on a well-cultivated soul, or purpose in life beyond self-glory. So after the paint starts to crack, you’re left with what you had all along: an entitled diva wannabe, whether the high-powered corporate kind or the trailer park variety.

We don’t know enough to know our own ignorance. We have too much to care about any of it. Our sensory experience has inflated until we can feel neither sobriety nor awe. Ennui is the spirit of the age: glutted with our cornflakes, we have starved out desire for anything else.

Part of the tragedy of the average is that it isn’t universal. There are people in my generation and beyond who have been forced to face the deeper realities of life under the sun. They are a lonely lot, these. I spoke once with a young man who had endured a terrible heartbreak. He confided in me how difficult it is for him to talk with anyone his age, because all they care about is the latest greatest pop band. It would never cross their minds to ask him how he’s really doing; nor would they have the attention span to hear him out, or wisdom to offer the slightest comfort. Pity these souls who, along with their peers, have left the innocence of childhood, but who have crossed the lonely threshold of maturity, while their peers remain happily stupefied in adultescence, cheerily enjoying the privileges of grownups without any burden of wisdom or responsibility.

“There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers. There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth. There are those – how lofty are their eyes, how high their eyelids lift! There are those whose teeth are swords, whose fangs are knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, the needy from among mankind.”

The progression is telling: from rejection of authority, to pride and complacency, to indifference and cruelty. We just don’t care about anything bigger or better than ourselves.

I know, this probably qualifies as a “rant,” and a pretty cynical one at that. But diagnosis is not prognosis. Even in my generation in North America, there is still something called the kingdom of God, and those within it who fear the Lord their God and possess the beginning of wisdom. It remains true, however, that we must wake up to some things if we would serve the purpose of God in our own generation (Acts 13:36). We might begin by listening to our fathers and mothers.

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