‘Tis a statement of fact that postmodern people -including Christians- have been effectively de-normed. We do not know how to appreciate simplicity, to be content, to be happy, to rejoice with those who rejoice, or to mourn with those who mourn, or even define bedrock terms from a Biblical framework.
All most of us know how to do today is gawk, gossip, and gripe. It’s a sad truth, but it is a truth nonetheless. This was a hard pill for me to swallow a few years ago when I first committed a more positive thought and conversational life. That’s not to say that I fully achieved this. It was hard then, and it sometimes still is, but it’s easier now that I accept being mostly on my own looking for the joy in the dailyless of life, and being thankful for it.
Every now and again, however, I run across a fellow traveler who is quick to offer a response of heartfelt joy to someone else’s good news, good fortune, or acts of Christian kindness. Someone who offers exuberant, unsolicited praise for their husband, gratitude for their church, and just seems to be looking for the good in a world awash with bad news. It encourages me, as did this piece I stumbled upon via Rod Dreher:
Boy oh boy, is Felix Miller ever right:
Contemporary young people on the right may be described in many ways: Transgressive. Ostracized. Principled. Unpopular. Free-thinking. Reactionary. Traditional. However accurate—and perhaps damning — one thinks these are, there is one label that greatly worries me: Joyless.
He’s not talking about being funny, in a smart-alecky way. He’s talking about something rooted in love. More:
Many on the right, especially those who identify as “Alt-Right,” spend massive amounts of time rejoicing in the pain of those with whom they disagree. The fact that videos about “libtard meltdowns” and “Butt-Hurt Crying Hillary Voters Compilation” have far more views than videos about Shakespeare, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Dante’s Commedia, should tell us something. Young conservatives and reactionaries, much as they flail their hands at the death of Western civilization and the loss of wisdom, do very little in the way of actually preserving the beauty and truth underlying this great tradition. If joy is truly a result of love, man must be very careful to develop the right affections in his breast. Right now many on the right seem hellbent on cultivating affection for dank memes rather than for truth, goodness, and beauty.
Miller says that G.K. Chesterton ought to be our model. We can’t simply say what we’re against. We have to say what we’re for, and not only that, but we have to live it out. If we really believe what we say, then “we must show our countrymen that there is a better way.” Miller suggests eating, drinking, and making all kinds of traddish merry. More:
This may seem abstruse, but in fact it is one of the most practical realizations a young traditionalist can make. Simply change your habits to help bring friends and family into rituals and ways of life that affirm reality. Host a formal dinner! Go to an art museum! Have a picnic in which you read classic poetry aloud! This is how we can create a sustainable traditionalism in the West.
What I am advocating here is not aestheticism, but communally gathering around all that is true, good, and beautiful. Politics is ordered toward promotion of the common good, thus in order to engage in politics we all must first have a love for the good. We cannot base the rejuvenation of our dying civilization upon a shared animosity, for as Chesterton reminds us, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
True, this. Is it any wonder the world is in the mess that it’s in, and the church along with it? Why do so few seem to ask whose interests are served by our perpetual state of discontent, blaming, criticizing, finger pointing, and fighting?
Sadly, I think I know the answer to the questions. It’s because our natures, deep down, love darkness rather than light. Not only that, we’re mentally lazy and cognitive misers. That may be redundant, but it’s worth a double emphasis.
Joyful living and appreciation of others demand that we subdue our sinful tendency toward selfisness and criticism. Put simply, poking sticks and complaining is just more fun, if only because there’s much more company on the crowded road.
The news of the day is grim, and there is lots to criticize, murmur and complain about. Make a choice to choose life over death, blessing over cursing, joy over discontentment. Really, how much can any one of us do to stem the tide of evil perpetually reported for the express purpose of instiling fear and squelching whatever peace we have? Not much, so why volunteer to be terrified and agitated?
As for us and our house, we are making efforts, real efforts, to embrace beauty, family, community, and Ultimate Truth.