May each of you have the heart to conceive, the understanding to direct, and the hand to execute works that will leave the world a little better for your having been here. -- Ronald Reagan

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Aging, Civilization: A Look Through Life's Rear-view Mirror

I've worn it out, but I had a tee shirt the color of red dirt found in "red rock" country, that said on the back "Older Than Dirt". Humorous to be sure, but it's how I feel sometimes as I sit on the cusp of the far side of middle age. I'm in my early 60's now, and the world I came into is passing away. It's not just that my body isn't as dynamic as it once was, but the moral values that contributed to a stable civilization is passing out of existence.

I've thought for many years the Victorians had it right, and the morals and values of the mid-twentieth century were correct. There are behaviors the rend the social fabric, but in previous times these were indulged in quietly, behind closed doors. Now we do such things openly with braggadocio. I can't see we are better off for it.

When I was in high school in the 1960's it was a shock when a girl got pregnant. Premarital sex was something most of us didn't even consider; it wasn't a good thing. I recently saw a vid with Ann Coulter and John Stossel in an auditorium filled with young libertarians. Coulter said divorce was too easy, it's violation of a contract. The idea was met with boos and hisses. I think now people enter into marriage no longer viewing it as a sacred relationship and as entirely disposable. The family is all but destroyed since marriage has become that, and we're moving toward marriage meaning a State sanctioned coupling of anyone. Our schools are being allowed to teach first and second graders that homosexuality is a desirable thing. In my school days, we didn't get sex ed until seventh grade, I think. Homosexuality, and I don't care who you're poking, is not normative, yet it's being promoted over cross sex relationships. 

When I was a kid, most everybody went to church. There we were in contact with all ages, and there was continuity and exposure to other's knowledge and wisdom. It's were we were taught ethics and values that formed the foundation of our society. How we were to treat people, how and why to serve others.  That and our families were the focus and center of our lives. Life was in fact more simple then.

Things fall apart. There now exists the idea since these values can't be lived up to, don't even try. If one does try, and fails, you're a hypocrite. I remember studying existentialism in high school and college, and part of that philosophy was nihilism. From Wikipedia: Nihilism is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more putatively meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Moral nihilists assert that morality does not inherently exist, and that any established moral values are abstractly contrived. Nihilism can also take epistemological or metaphysical/ontological forms, meaning respectively that, in some aspect, knowledge is not possible, or that reality does not actually exist.  [emphasis mine]

From that I ponder if our country, our civilization, is too far gone into nihilism. Any behavior is acceptable, even if it destroys the family (the foundation of civilization), exploits kids sexually (pedophilia is on the rise and becoming more acceptable, parents dressing their daughters like street walkers as examples), and destroys the Church, the foundation of care and charity, the source of moral teaching. Now that schools have become the source of that, the moral teaching is any traditional behavior is to be rejected, religion is to be rejected along with the church, pastors and priests are to be reviled and mocked and replaced by the State and politicians. Politicians are now the priests. Judges wear priestly robes, but ignore the law; interpret it anyway they want. Together they enforce the secular religion of the State.

We have degenerated in moral relativity and nihilism. It saddens me that 5000 plus years of tyranny being the norm of civilization, the United States comes along and rights things with the Declaration and Constitution, providing law based on moral Judeo-Christian foundations, and that is being rejected in favor of returning to tyranny and the embracing of a meaningless existence except pleasing one's self, mostly materially.

Despite all the problems existing in my childhood, life was simpler then, and I would say better. Many of those problems were resolved or at least partially corrected, but it was because of Faith, Family, Communion and Service with each other.

Life was simpler then. This is from the Monkey's song “Only Shades of Gray” and I share this lament (though it meant something different when I was a kid).

When the world and I were young,
Just yesterday.
Life was such a simple game
A child could play.
It was easy then to tell right from wrong.
Easy then to tell weak from strong.
When a man should stand and fight,
Or just go along.
But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light.
Today there is no black or white,
Only shades of gray.
I remember when the answers seemed so clear
We had never lived with doubt or tasted fear.
It was easy then to tell truth from lies
Selling out from compromise
What to love and what to hate,
The foolish from the wise.
It was easy then to know what was fair
When to keep and when to share.
How much to protect your heart
And how much to care.

 In case you're not  familiar with the Monkees

This lament combined with aging and what comes with it. Once again from much rejected scripture.
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come And the years approach of which you will say, I have no pleasure in them; Before the sun is darkened. and the light, and the moon, and the stars, while the clouds return after the rain; When the guardians of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, And the grinders are idle because they are few, and they who look through the windows grow blind; When the doors to the street are shut, and the sound of the mill is low; When one waits for the chirp of a bird, but all the daughters of song are suppressed; And one fears heights, and perils in the street; When the almond tree blooms, and the locust grows sluggish and the caper berry is without effect, Because man goes to his lasting home, and mourners go about the streets; Before the silver cord is snapped and the golden bowl is broken, And the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the broken pulley falls into the well, And the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the life breath returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, all things are vanity! (Ecclesiastes 12:1-8)

Things fall apart. I lament the falling apart of our nation's traditional mores and values, but don't lament my aging. I embrace it. I'm saddened that following generations may not know the sweetness of liberty and making decisions and judgments for oneself. 

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