Everyone seems to want their lives to be as easy as possible. I cannot pretend I understand why: to me it seems self-evident that since this life is the only one we get, everyone should try to achieve as much as possible. But no: people choose the safest and easiest relationships and jobs and much else besides – and then, because they need excitement, they bungee jump, take drugs, and cheat on their spouses.
Paganism is back because it is all about the “easy” – that path requires no self-examination, no uncomfortable questions about whether we are being all that we can be. We just buy off the deity, and we can live however we like. Pride Culture is obsessed with navel gazing: What do I want? What do I feel? How do I obtain the things I lust after? Me, me, me.
Cheap relationships are an extension of this same idea. A hookup or escort makes no demands. When a man simply wants physical interaction, the “easy” woman is available, cheaper, and requires no long-term investment or soul searching. Above all, that same woman does not require us to changes ourselves. Easy women are paradise for self-centered shallow men – and somehow the women have been convinced in turn that they should try to emulate men in this respect. The results are disastrous.
There is an underlying philosophy to this societal rot. Most people do not believe that there is such a thing as a soul. They believe that the physical realm is all there is, which means that people can be treated like any consumable commodity, nothing more or less than the sum of their parts. If you can afford it, you trade in the old model wife for a newer one, with little more drama than one applies to retiring an older car. And you continue to pursue whatever you decide is going to please you in the moment. But we don’t call it what it is: short-sighted selfishness, or the fancier name of “hedonistic narcissism”. Instead, the language has been flipped on its head. People “live their best life” by being “true to themselves” and “living in the moment”.
In so doing, they are living a monochrome existence in a technicolor world. If you believe that people cannot change, then that belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and you are incapable of growth. Indeed, if you believe that people are nothing more or less than the sum of their nature/nurture, then people, being static, also become very uninteresting.
If you have never witnessed a deep and abiding marriage, then you cannot understand that treating women as chattel reduces both people to mere display models, non-functioning simulacrum of the real thing. You cannot understand that we are each supposed to change and grow, including and especially within a marriage.
Grown-up culture requires us to ask anti-selfish questions. Instead of making life about ourselves, we need to instead ask: How do I love others? How do I truly hear them? How do I please others in a way that builds us BOTH up?
We are losing this marketing campaign. It hurts how badly the forces of good are being routed. We are losing to the kinds of profound and thought-provoking philosophical slogans that come from Nike shirts and rainbow lawn signs.
Is it possible that we lost control of the battlefield when we lost control of the language? And that the way in which we should be marketing positive and redemptive life choices is by taking control of the language back, calling out the shallow and facile life choices that are corroding the fabric of our civilization and the nuclear family?
I wonder if this is so. And if it is, how we go about trying to fix it?
Because from where I am sitting, the problem is as old as time, and assails us anew in every generation. It might wear lycra instead of birkenstocks, but every generation, it seems, dallies with the “easy” choices, the superficial relationships and the single-minded pursuit of pleasure. When Judah contracted sex from Tamar, he knows she is for hire because she covered her face: she was saying that she was willing to have a purely physical relationship with no emotional connection. The ideal 21st century hookup.
When our children do it, parents agonize. And when a generation engages in it (as the Israelites did when whoring with the daughters of Midian), we know G-d is deeply distressed and angered. But neither parental concern nor divine wrath seem to make a big difference in promoting the Good Life. When given the choice, a substantial and growing number people choose short-term pleasure instead of marriage, pets instead of children, ease instead of challenges, safety instead of investment.
How do we fix it? Leading by example is not enough, because it is paradoxical to advertise those holy things that thrive in privacy. Most of us are too private to advertise the nature and depth of our marriages or our connections to the Creator. That is as it should be: exposing a marriage to the public eye destroys all the meaning that comes with spiritual and physical intimacy between two people who love each other exclusively.
We are in a marketing campaign for the sake of goodness, for the sake of civilization, for the sake of holiness. The Bad Guys control most schools, the media and government. The mere suggestion that people should be responsible for our own words and deeds is banned speech in many forums. Not only are we losing, the pagans are trying to rig the game (from elections to speech codes) to ensure that we cannot even make the case for the Good Life.
For me, the challenge is to help people to make positive choices, to take responsibility for themselves and their families and communities. To build a holy society. And to lose as few people as possible to the consequences of what happens when we follow their momentary passions.
How do we fix it?
[an @iwe, @susanquinn, @blessedblacksmith, @kidcoder and @eliyahumasinter piece]