Monday, August 07, 2006

About My Generation: Narcissism Becomes Us

Okay, so this one most everyone knows. But it's an important point nonetheless. My generation has been raised on the fumes of its own fame. Actually, let's revise that: the fumes of its own "fame." We're not really worthy of fame, most of us. It's just that we've been told we are. As a result, narcissism--the relentless pursuit of self-adoration--becomes us.

Cultural commentators and pundits are quick to jump on the backs of my peers for our self-exalting ways, and they should. But more than us, they should target our parents. We have been raised in homes stripped of religion, scrubbed free of morality, and evacuated of meaning. We've been doted on, spoiled, and stuffed full of the best of everything, and as a result, we've learned to seek first the kingdom of self. Many have noted that we're materialistic to the extreme. Yes, we are, and why wouldn't we be? Many of our parents made materials the sum of life. They slept in on Sundays, took us to the mall on Fridays (as they shopped for themselves), and worked Monday through Saturday in order to buy their coveted possessions. Guess what happened? We fell in love with materials. We inherited our parents' distaste for religion and deeper meaning and chose instead to drown ourselves in pleasure and purchases. Now we define our lives by our possessions. It used to be the other way around. (Note: this in no ways describes my own parents.)

This is to say nothing of the psychological culture of the day. Psychology is the new Christianity. Young people born several centuries were often trained to rigorously examine their souls, to consider whether they knew the Lord or not. Young people today are trained to rigorously their feelings and psyches to consider whether they are as happy as they could be. Doubtless there are some in this number who need some sort of help. But there are many who suffer no other malady than insufficient self-exaltation. They are desperate to remedy the situation, as their parents trained them to be. They thus become connosseuirs of themselves. Christianity transforms and saves the self, yes, but then it trains the believer to go out and help others. Not so with psychology. It trains one to focus on oneself, and nothing more. Many of my generation in an endless cycle of self-examination, like one of those mirrors that shows one's reflection ad infinitum.

How should we engage this as Christians? Teach the culture that they are separated from God and damned to hell by their sin and in desperate need of a Savior, not a psychiatrist. Teach them that they were not made to pursue their own pleasure, but God's. Teach them that they should labor for eternal fruits, not earthly treasures. We should proclaim these truths with sensitivity, remembering that they will sound strange due to their others-centered nature. Want to really shock a member of my generation? Don't show them a smutty nature. Tell them that they need to meet the demands of a righteous God, not a raging ego. That should do the trick.


Blogger Jed said...

Francis schaeffer made the interesting point that our grandparents' generation (the world war II generation) lived a life of material comfort and affluence and part of the reason for our parents' rebellious actions in the 60's was a revulsion at what they saw as empty materialism and a deep desire to find meaning in life. However they looked in the wrong places (drugs, mysticism etc). If your account is right (and it seems plausible enough), did our parents make peace with the materialistic bourgeoisie lifestyle of our grandparents? And if that's true--and we, unlike our parents make no drastic efforts to rebel against this materialistic order--have we simply resigned ourselves to nihilism? That is to say, should it bother us that our generation has taken part in no great social movements, wars, or causes?

7:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good psychiatrist will tell you that proper therapy involves a sensitive process to dismantle the ego.

10:39 AM  

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