Sunday, November 3, 2013

No Direction Home

Lately, I've been finding that the song 'Down in the Valley'  by the Head and the Heart just keeps going through my head. 

Now, you might be wondering why that matters. 'Very good, Rebekah,' you say, 'I'm glad you have a penchant for neo-folk. That's just another artificial aspect of our society that you continually bemoan.'

Well, yes, legitimate point. But, the yearning at the heart of this music, and even the artificiality of its generation both point to an ever increasing problem in our society.

We are a culture completely devoid of expectations placed upon us from the outside.

In 'Down in the Valley,' the singer comments how he wishes he were 'a slave to an age-old trade.' There is something comforting and beautiful in continuing in a tradition, even if it means renouncing choice.

And, that is precisely the point. Most of us, from the beginning of the age of reason, have been told we could be whatever we want to be. We were read books about how we could be astronauts or the president. We watched movies in which characters struggled to break free from the restrictive shackles of 'traditional' societies.

And, as a result, we are actually left with nothing to start from. No guidance. No tradition. Just fairytale goals that leave us terrified of 'settling.'

Consequently, we are also incapable of really sinking our teeth into any enterprise. Divorce rates are higher than ever. Many view serious relationships as a hindrance to their careers or to their traveling or to their 'finding themsleves.'

As a society, we have collectively thrown our traditions to the wind. We view taking care of our aging parents as an imposition. Children just get in the way of pursuing our personal goals. Living near our families might inhibit our opportunities. 

We have thrown away our homes.

And, consequently, we find ourselves further and further away from each other, speeding apart. We keep repeating that we are autonomous, that we don't need other people, that living our dreams will make us happy. 

But, it doesn't.

And, thus, we are left homeless in the midst of our luxury.

In The Brothers Karamazov, the Elder Zosima comments:

The world has proclaimed freedom, especially of late, but what do we see in this freedom of theirs: only slavery and suicide! For the world says, 'You have needs, therefore satisfy them, for you have the same rights as the noblest and richest men. Do not be afraid to satisfy them, but even increase them'--this is the current teaching of the world. And in this they see freedom. But what comes of the right to increase one's needs? For the rich, isolation and spiritual suicide; for the poor, envy and murder.... 

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