Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Generation

If the generation who fought the Second World War is “The Greatest Generation,” then is our generation—their children, the Boomers—the Worst?

Our parents dropped everything in time of war. They gave their lives for liberty, for God and country. My generation rejected everything for “Peace” in the 1960s (also for “Love, Freedom, Happiness”). Over the ensuing decades we took back only what suited us. We reacquired only what met the requirements of our selfishness.

And as my dear grandfather said, the world went to hell in a hand basket. When I was a boy, abortion was illegal and gay marriage was a happy union of man and woman. What generation exactly do you suppose was responsible for the changes that took place?

In the chaos of the anti-Vietnam years, we privileged children of the Greatest Generation rejected our parents’ patriotism, their belief in the capitalist system, and their religion. Then we took back only some pieces of the value puzzle. We took back the capitalist piece, and bought fine cars with it, and snorted cocaine. By the 1980s some of us were monsters, with heads but no hearts, three legs but no eyes. When the Gulf War came along, or maybe it was 9/11, we took back the patriotic piece too and waved flags and failed to make sound judgments about such things as an unwinnable war in Afghanistan.

Still, we scoffed at the religion piece and became atheists, or traded it in for New Age. We knew better. Christopher Hitchens, celebrity atheist, is one of us. So is his brother Peter, an outspoken advocate of the good old Church of England, who took back that piece, unlike Christopher.

This line of thought occurred to me as I awoke this morning from a dream. In my dream I sat at a coffee table and explained to a college chum of mine why I had become a Catholic. My friend, respected in his community, was raised Catholic but now favors the more contemporary and sophisticated religion of secular humanism. Everyone understands him. I am the anomaly. Everyone is “going the other way,” as another friend and lapsed Catholic told me not too long ago. I swim against the stream, and often my strokes are not strong enough.

If the dream had continued, I might have explained to my friend that, having rejected so much of my parents’ value systems, I became lost. At first, young and stupid, I fell in with the chaotic protests and self-indulgence of the late 1960s. Realizing by some inner compass that I was lost, I next fell into the arms of a New Age movement—which in fact saved me from what could have been worse (long story). But by the 1980s I had become disenchanted with this movement, which I would summarize as “Christianity without Christ.” With meditation and other techniques, the movement directed my attention inward, to my Real Self. Crouched with my legs crossed and my eyes closed, I finally realized that I was staring into a void, and lonely as hell. Only when I opened my eyes and looked up to see the Church and the Cross did I find myself surrounded with friends. I wasn’t lonely any more.

Dreams amaze me. The friend in today’s dream is not only a lapsed Catholic. He is also one of the people with whom I embraced the said New Age movement. Like me, he rejected it in the 1980s for reasons of his own, and he moved into local business circles, where he has met considerable success. He looks a bit tired today, the lines on his face deeper than mine (or so I imagine), but he is a success by any lay standard.

I last saw my friend at a funeral, where local business leaders turned out to honor one of their own, a Catholic. My friend was one of the rich people in the pews. I was the guy carrying the cross and serving at the altar.

I have not seen my friend since that funeral, not until my dream this morning. I should continue the conversation.

1 comment:

  1. an out-of-context comment from your contrarian daughter named marian:
    1. it's too easy to correlate gay marriage and losing our religion, collectively. there's a lurking variable in there, maybe, but come on! cheap shot.
    2. while i think your argument about new age thought vs. christianity is valid - we need something central, something true, to hold on to - i think that meditation and introspection are so important to personal faith. It is possible to use New Age ideas to create a belief of "All I need is myself". It is also possible to take that perspective in light of the Christian faith and say, "All I need is myself and God". God made us in his image -- it's good to want to get to know our "inner selves"! Maybe it will bring us closer to Him.

    We are going to have so many fun conversations in Spain!


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