Anyone who look…

Anyone who looks at our contemporary life from the perspective of the normal life lived by people in earlier times—say, Russia, or America, or any country of Western Europe in the 19th century—cannot help but be struck by the fact of how abnormal life has become today. The whole concept of authority and obedience, of decency and politeness, of public and private behavior—all have changed drastically, have been turned upside down except in a few isolated pockets of people—usually Christians of some kind—who try to preserve the so-called “old-fashioned” way of life.

Our abnormal life today can be characterized as spoiled, pampered. From infancy today’s child is treated, as a general rule, like a little god or goddess in the family: his whims are catered to, his desires fulfilled.; he is surrounded by toys, amusements, comforts; he is not trained and brought up according to strict principles of Christian behavior, but left to develop whichever way his desires incline. It is usually enough for him to say, “I want it!” or “I won’t do it!” for his obliging parents to bow down before him and let him have his way. Perhaps this does not happen all the time in every family, but it happens often enough to be the rule of contemporary childrearing, and even the best-intentioned parents do not entirely escape its influence. Even if the parents try to raise the child strictly, the neighbors are trying to do something else. They have to take that into consideration when disciplining the child.

When such a child becomes an adult, he naturally surrounds himself with the same things he was used to in his childhood: comforts, amusements, and grown-up toys. Life becomes a constant search for “fun” which, by the way, is a word totally unheard of in any other vocabulary; in 19th century Russia they wouldn’t have understood what this word meant, or any serious civilization. Life is a constant search for “fun” which is so empty of any serious meaning that a visitor from any 19th-century country, looking at our popular television programs, amusement parks, advertisements, movies, music—at almost any aspect of our popular culture—would think he had stumbled across a land of imbeciles who have lost all contact with normal reality. We don’t often take that into consideration, because we are living in this society and we take it for granted.

Some recent observers of our contemporary life have called the young people of today the “me generation” and our times the “age of narcissism,” characterized by a worship of and fascination with oneself that prevents a normal human life from developing. Others have spoken of the “plastic” universe or fantasy world in which so many people live today, unable to face or come to terms with the reality of the world around them or the problems within themselves.

–Father Seraphim Rose, “The Orthodox World View”

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