There’s a scene in the movie Fight Club, where Edward Norton’s character is recuperating and Brad Pitt’s character gives him a short “pep talk” about the world he sees (in the future sense). While there’s a ton to say about Fight Club, the main point of connection I want to make is the fact that Pitt’s character, Tyler Durden, sees the world very differently from most people. I feel like I can relate to this aspect, because it seems like I see the world very differently from most people, also. Obviously, I have a very small circle of reference in terms of people to compare, but I think you’ll see what I mean as I try to explain some of the things that I see in the world around me.
One of the main things I see is a palpable sense of confusion. My generation is lost/directionless, and we’re starting to realize that. We try to placate these feelings with articles that say things like “when you’re younger, you think grown-ups have it right, but when you grow up, you realize that nobody knows what they’re doing.” The problem with these articles is that it’s simply not true. There are people, perhaps even a great number of them, who know exactly what they’re doing in life. Let that sink in. This is actually a good thing, and isn’t necessarily them just being arrogant or narrow-minded.
We don’t really like talking about ourselves, at least not our weaknesses, and especially to people who wouldn’t immediately be able to relate. Instead of taking the time to phrase our uniqueness in such a way that people different from us would be able to understand or empathize with, we let snarky or satirical articles do the work for us. Don’t believe me? How many times have you seen articles on your various social media outlets that have the title of “___ things that only ___ will understand”? What is the meaning behind these articles? In one way, I hear that what they are basically echo chambers, or a means of being reassured that you aren’t the only one that ___. But if that’s all they were, emotional buttresses, we would simply read them and get the “feels”, and move on, but we don’t. Instead of that, we share them for all our friends and family to see. Why do we do that? I think it’s just what I said above, a sort of impersonal “here’s me!” set of points that be put out there at a relatively low cost to us, while still getting vague things about us to others. Why would someone bother taking the time and effort, and possible hurt, to explain their various social anxieties and how they view other people, and their need to be alone, when instead they can simply share an article about 9 things you need to know about introverts? We don’t want to take the time to read any of Carl Jung’s or even Briggs/Myer’s research, to understand the point or foundation of their tests, but we’ll dang near live by the cheap, 15 question, internet representations of said research.
Another interesting sign of the confusion of my generation is the number of bizarre things we dabble in. We’re still not too fond of “organized religion” or Christianity in particular (in my American-centric experience), but we’ll try just about any sort of “spiritualism” that comes down the pipe. This includes anything from the ignorant phrase of “Native American spirituality”, to tarot cards, a misunderstanding of any and all eastern religions (we’ll just leave aside their organized nature), all the way to the supposedly mystical power of positive thinking. Now that things have been separated into two stories, anything is up for grabs in the realm of possibly “true”. Don’t believe me? How many times have you seen someone on social media (does anyone say this in person?) request for positive vibes to be sent their way? Even leaving aside things like yoga, the idea is that positive vibes, or good thoughts, or whatever, is just as valid as prayer. Having a discussion of each of these things, comparing and contrasting their epistemological foundations, would just be narrow-minded, hard, and probably also regressive and bigoted, somehow. Since truth is relative, and the two story divide is firmly in place, who am I to suggest that all these forms of spiritualism are different, and that one might be better than another?
Unfortunately, we don’t have the foundational support of a solid worldview. We claim to be Taoist, without ever reading the Tao Te Ching. We claim to be Atheist, without thinking beyond “god doesn’t exist”. We claim to be Christian, without reading the Bible, or ever bothering to understand how that applies to life, or reading any Christian author much older than we are. We quickly run to bulverism, without thinking of the alternatives. The Modern Thinker’s Creed by Steve Turner is still the best summation, in poem form, of the way we think. Mix in an unhealthy dose of apathy, and that’s a spicy meat-a ball. The confusion of all this, mixed with a general ignorance of philosophy, politics, and theology, as well as the washout from the self-esteem movement seems to all be coming to a head. Perhaps it is merely a collective quarter-life crisis, but it seems more like pandemic life burnout. I think there will come a time in the not so distant future that many people will be desperate to latch onto something solid in a world that has seemingly become increasingly chaotic. My prediction is that at some point, Islam will be in America in a big way (perhaps something like Dearborn’s Arab festival, on a large scale) and many people will convert (however sincerely) because in the raging torrent of confusion, Islam will appear to be a solid foundation. Islam may be a fist, but at least that fist is made of iron.
Perhaps I am wrong. Maybe I am thinking too much, and thinking wrongly, about the things I see. This is only a small area, and I am prone to both cynicism and error. If I’m not, what is there to do about it? To be honest, the whole thing seems overwhelming to me at times. Say I’m right. What can 1 guy do? I don’t have much of a platform, any relevant degrees, or experience in dealing with these sorts of things. The good news is that I (nor you) don’t have to try and start from myself and figure everything out on my own. The Christian worldview has the tools to both understand the human condition, and the solution for its ails. The gospel of Christ is at once both blessedly simple, and yet incredibly profound and deep in a way that is helpful to all of life. Christ is Lord over all of life, and is sovereign over all of creation.
This means that as Christians, we need to do the heavy lifting of understanding and reading the Bible. We need to know how Scripture speaks to life’s multi-faceted conundrums. In this information age, we have the benefit of thousands of years of material from faithful Christian men and women, who have thought through many of these same issues. To borrow a Biblical phrase, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. This is hard work, but doing this work is one of the ways we love our neighbors as ourselves.
Continue to fight the fight, run the race, and keep the faith (2 Tim. 4:7), and know that the God who will never leave nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5) is the same God who is in you, both to will and to work, for His good pleasure (Phili. 2:13).