March 22, 2017
Life sure is complicated these days, isn’t it? Everything happens at the speed of light. People want what they want, and they don’t just want it now, they want it five minutes ago. Not only individuals, but our entire society, it seems, has pivoted to the instant, and even to the unreal.
There are instant foods that you pop into the microwave, aka the instant cooker, to prepare your daily bread; there are machines on street corners and in most stores where you slip a piece of plastic into the slot and receive back instant cash—and it doesn’t even have to be cash you have in the bank. It can be cash you don’t even really have at all.
Then there are all the bells and whistles attached to this behemoth we call the Internet. Talk about unreality? I like to play games. I always tell anyone who will listen that playing a few games each day helps my brain to stay limber. Insofar as that goes, it’s true. But one of the game sites I go to, where I pay a fairly modest annual fee to be a “member” will allow you to purchase, for money, things such as backgrounds and clothing, pets and other accoutrements for what essentially is a non-animated computer-generated image that is your “face” on the game site. Yes, you can pay real money for something that truthfully isn’t real at all. And what you’ve purchased is only “yours” for as long as you’re a member of that site. Stop paying your annual fee? Bye-bye avatar and all those purchased items.
This modern age we find ourselves in is a time when we, as individuals, as a society, have re-defined so very many previously well established and accepted concepts and norms of life.
TV commercials now show an “ideal” home life where evenings find family members sequestered in different rooms in the house, where they’re “on line”, or “watching movies”. Groups of kids in two separate rooms, and the parents alone in a third. This is the new, modern family time.
But it isn’t just activities that are being redefined, it’s actual tenets, the codes by which we as a society are organized and behave. I can recall a time, not so long ago, when individuals and society as a whole condemned the telling of lies. There was a time when, if you lied even once, you became known as a liar, and it was a long, long time before you would be trusted again. Being known as a liar was an anathema.
Making a mistake in life was something we all avoided, and still do, but it would happen regardless, and that was bad enough. But add onto that mistake the crime of lying? That didn’t just make your original mistake doubly bad—it made it practically irredeemable.
But today we are sliding into a world of “alternate facts”. People who should be our role models as examples of decency are lying on a daily basis, and getting away with it. They are getting away with it because we let them. We say they are confused, or not completely informed, or that they really didn’t mean, literally, what they’d said, or tweeted, or any number of euphemisms we use these days instead of good, old fashioned plain speaking.
I would dearly love to see us return to that plain speaking. I know it’s normal for someone of my age to wish for simpler, kinder times; hell, when I was in my teens, I heard older people then express this same, basic desire. But here’s the thing: There wasn’t anything as overtly alarming in those past times that inspired this desire in the older generation for those kinder, simpler days. It was more a longing to embrace once again that which was familiar, that with which they’d grown up. The desire was, basically, sentimental in nature.
It can be very disorienting when the minutia of life changes so much that those who are older can feel left behind, and long for the days when they weren’t in the dark, long for the times they felt included and a part of it all.
That is worlds away and far different from the problems facing individuals and our society today. The problem we face is not a problem of feeling lost in the unfamiliar: it is a problem of being divorced from basic decency and the truth.
The bad news is that until people stand up for what is right—until they are willing to speak truth to power and say, “no, sir, that is a lie”, and curb that tendency toward lying at every turn, things are only going to get worse, and they will get worse in ways we can’t even fully imagine yet.
The good news is that I just picked up a book that many of those very people who appear to be unwilling to do the right thing, claim to hold as a treasured source of inspiration. This book they claim to be the cornerstone of their lives, is a book that they claim to hold in reverence. I opened that very book, and I quickly thumbed to a specific point, and, whew, what a relief! Just when I thought everything had changed—turns out, it really hasn’t!
Exodus 20:16 still reads and means the same, exactly, as it always, always has—and always, always will.