I watch my children’s age group, the 20- and 30-somethings, sorting through just what kind of life is worth living—in what or whom should they invest their energy and trust?
Our generation, the baby boomer 60s children, blew the “ought to” right out of the water, for good reason at the time. Now I see our own children struggle to make sense of a shattered moral code, an anything-goes culture that has careened out of control like a runaway train from the utopia and collective conscience we believed in. What “ought” they do? What “should” they commit to?
Hippie culture is still alive, new age and holistic solutions abound and mainstream themselves, while a return to the land and an ache for a simple life close to nature wafts by us all with a tantalizing fragrance just out of reach. It is especially evasive to our young people.
How can they give up their reliance on their iPhones and iPads and TVs and Youtube and Facebook? How can they hope to function free of the culture that both numbs and comforts them so effectively? My heart hurts to see the yearning in their eyes for something real despite their hard-nosed certainty that such a thing is not reliable. They are surrounded by ephemeral things, by critical data that is both stored and owned by a Cloud, as capricious and unpredictable as the wind. How, then, can they trust in another apparition, whether it be love, honor, truth, or God?
And how can we, their parents, recapture the fervor of our beliefs? How can we hope to extricate it from the long march of self-serving we have held in order to provide a fake and unreliable utopia for these dissatisfied young grownups?
Reading this week’s Torah portion, the first section of Deuteronomy, brought home to me how aggravating it was to Moses that Israel turned away from what God provided—everything needed for a true paradise, a complete deliverance from slavery and hopelessness. And he knew that Israel would go on in that direction, as it surely has and as have we.
The original pure and beautiful thing was twisted into a tangled, impossible mess of history and habit. Ditto for our 60s ideals. There can be no shared paradise, no utopia, no true community until we humans no longer try to define and control it. Up the ladder, the closer and closer to God we get, the deeper becomes the temptation to define and control even the most sacred of things.
So what’s the answer? The impossible. God will have to turn everything upside down, and one day, we’ll see and understand how right that is.