What do you use to kill a pink elephant?
A Pink Elephant Gun.
Psychiatrist Dr Keith Ablow opines that “we are raising a generation of deluded narcissists.”
Is this really true? Perhaps.
But this is not the real elephant in the room. My elephant gun is not targeted at millennials, so rest easy!
The huffalump hiding in plain sight is the postmodern climate that increasingly declares that there is no objective truth combined with an explosion of unfiltered media and communication onslaught. There are so many truth claims being fired from every direction that they mere vast number of them over-saturates us. How can there be one truth if there are so many truth claims? Worse still, real deep truths cannot be properly formulated with soundbites. But in today’s media, soundbites win out. To subvert us, it is easy. Simply mix in quick hitting entertainment, and add in your soundbites or show how cool postmodernism is. The soundbites added in is simply the ideologies of people who have the most money to sway our programming. It’s war, actually. War on our hearts and minds.
Thus, the incessant fixation in bringing the flaws of Millennials into light is indeed a Rorschach test for us. It betrays the effect the present day climate is doing to all of us. It subconsciously affects all of us, it’s just that we see the exaggerated effect expressed out in Millennials because they were born and saturated in it while we of the older generation were exposed to it gradually over time.
This postmodern spirit, is this really something new under the sun?
Actually, God had already inspired Paul to write about this. As I read 2 Timothy 3 again, I sometimes get speechless how spot on this is.
In 2 Tim 3:1-5, Paul wrote that in the last days, people would be “lovers of themselves”, “without self-control”, “having a form of godliness, but denying it’s power”, “always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”. Danial 12:4 continues inform us that the magnitude of “knowledge shall increase.” (1)
Woah. Doesn’t this describe the main complaints about the general direction the Millennials are taking in the age of the internet? As mentioned before, Psychiatrist Dr Keith Ablow opines that “we are raising a generation of deluded narcissists.” The Huffington Post concludes that U.S. colleges students now “feel super special about themselves.” Millennial Alexis Bloomer opined in her viral video, that her generation feels “the great extent of existing but not adding value.” “They feel the greater need to cuss to prove a point.” “They feel education and a good job is an entitlement.” Bruce A. Ritter opines that, “Millennials come to expect receiving what they want – and they want it now!” They also have strengths like high rates of volunteerism. They are experts at multitasking. They are social, having learnt from childhood to be inclusive, to leave “no child left behind.” Millennials have been raised to be tolerant – of race, religion, even sexual orientation; they were taught “don’t judge.” (2) “But parents and mentors failed to teach them the importance of exercising patience, discretion, prudence. They were not taught to value right from wrong, to understand the difference between one from the other.”
In a world where there is no objective truth, subjectivity trumps facts. If everyone’s truth is real, equal and important, then no one’s truth is important. If we are all standards, then there is no standard. If there is no real Truth, then aren’t we all just amoeba that evolved to have feelings? Now that most Millennials are born into a world where they don’t have to worry about survival, the only thing left is to appease the feelings. We claim to respect everyone’s feelings but we appease the feelings of others to the extent that it benefits our own.
My heart is grieved because I have learnt that glorifying our feelings all the time doesn’t lead to a victorious, meaningful life. But yet, if we take the post-modern assumptions and distill it down. Glorifying our ego and feelings is the only result if we take the argument to its logical conclusion.
This is the heart of post-modernism, that there is no truth beyond the truth that we I make. In today’s climate, we live in sad contradiction. We are supposed to make our own goal posts, yet we feel pressured when others excel more than us. We are supposed to celebrate “doing things our own way” and “being ourselves”, until you step on some others who are also “being themselves”. As they say, today’s diplomacy is giving you permission to do things my way. But making men, including one’s self, the ultimate authority for truth and reality has always been a bad idea. Which dictator do you know who was not subject to a better higher power actually turned out well? Being forced to contend with the full force of relativism was a war on my mind.
The idea that truth is relative voided me any objective standard or benchmark to objectively push back against the great unfairness occurring in my life. If the pinnacle of medical science and the wide scope of social groups both relegate you to a corner, what hope is there? If humans are the final authority, their knowledge the limiting factor and their feelings their masters, what are you truly worth if they don’t recognize you? As they say, if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it really fall?
If you are in this position, do not blame them. Many of them could not acknowledge the true purpose behind my existence. In doing so, they have to come face to face with the vast imperfections of their own reality or acknowledge the gloomy Abyss that could be awaiting them. A blissful ignorance that should not be broken.
“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” – Wizard of Oz
This type of advice is like a prideful poisonous placebo.
In the course of my suffering, it wasn’t so much the physical pains that crippled me. But, on the very hard days, the pains reminded me the long arduous struggle and how far I had fallen. It still chills me to remember how I would look at the mirror, and be disgusted at what I saw – the pus, the blood, the swollen eyes, the cracked lips. Then I’m disgusted at how I smelled – broken and inflamed skin with leaking plasma has a particular smell. All the while having burning sensations on my flesh, where the inflammations were. I glance at the mountains of medicines on the side that medical specialists have pushed to me, draining me of thousands of dollars. All these were promises to a hope that never came. I remember how they kept telling me it’s all mind over matter – that if I kept believing I would recover. Over time, especially if it doesn’t work, the insistence on this advice turns the placebo into postmodern poison.
It feels good and sounds intuitive, but it crumbles over time like how a Band-Aid over a gunshot wound fails to stop an infection. The problem with placebos are that if things seem to work out the glory goes to your ego since your mind and essence was the placebo itself. If it doesn’t work out, it leads to a disassociation at first, unwilling to accept that its your fault that it didn’t work. But over time it leads to condemnation because it was all about you to begin with. Hence, if one tends to administer such soundbite truisms to others regularly without regard of a person’s true situation, you may have been convinced by the echo chamber of your mind – giving credit to “what works for you” when there is no rigorous evidence that it does universally. The danger is that one’s schema might have been formed not through rigor and humility, but by the formation of a convenient worldview that continually protects the feel-good bubble from being busted.
“Let them have cake” – Marie Antoinette
Back to the mirror.
I remember being so tempted to smash the mirror and take the pieces to cut myself to end it all.
I remember that very clearly. I have many of those thoughts in 2008-2009 when I was essentially locked away in the prison of my bedroom. What stopped me?
It was the small remnant of song in my heart.
Even when my mind was already convinced that everything was futile and meaningless, a remnant of song in my heart, a voice, just gave me enough to stop me. Why was it still there? I have come to believe it’s the result of it being Truth.
That song was like the tip of the iceberg. The more I uncovered this Iceberg of Grace, the more real Truth I saw. The more truth I saw, the more I had a real benchmark that was not firmly planted in midair to add continual tension (even on days that tempt us to think the opposite) to pull my life to where it was meant to be. The more tension I had to believe in a God that is fully loving, fully able and fully willing.
Under that tip lies hidden a whole lot more. That small tip of Truth gave hope when I had every reason to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). The truth that Jesus really did come historically to Earth, died for my sin and rose again. This was the receipt that God would let “grace and mercy” (Ps 23) follow me. That what was “impossible with man is possible with God” (Lk 18:27). This is what unlocks promises like “all things work together for the good of those who love Him and work according to His purposes” (Rom 8:28)
I believed it not because it “works for me”. I believed it because it was true, and the Truth worked to set me free. That truth had allowed the core of my being to finally rest. A Sabbath rest without the Sabbath day.
When one has to swim across a swimming pool, mind over matter can help you get across faster. But when one is stuck drowning in a vast ocean, postmodernist positive thinking is revealed to be useless. A toothless lion. A gun without bullets. A magician without a trick. You need something external and real to come save you. A lion of Judah. Backed by verifiable prophecy in the Bible and confirmed in history. You need a Savior.
We see this exactly in Paul’s letters when he predicted the spiritual climate of the last days.
Remember how earlier, we described the symptoms living in this age that God had already foreseen?
In 2 Tim 3:1-5, Paul wrote that in the last days, people would be “lovers of themselves”, “without self-control”, “having a form of godliness, but denying it’s power”, “always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”.
Just a few verses down, Paul talks about the persecution he receives from these types of people that formed these types of institutions. When the whole world goes mad, plain and simple, Paul says,
“… Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.” (2 Tim 3:10)
Isn’t that the Gospel? Jesus coming to save. To tangibly move you into your purpose. To tangibly rescue you from your Abyss. While everyone is using mind over matter as they struggle to swim across the ocean, posting on social media every small incremental progress they make and despising you for not recognizing them as often as you should, God builds a submarine and takes you across the Atlantic. That’s the real history maker.
With this core, that’s why Paul insists that we are “more than conquerors” in Christ (Rom 8:37), regardless of the cultural climate and mindsets. Jesus is as real as history, and He will transform you and hold you to a destiny on Earth. This is what millennials hope for, but aren’t sure where to find it. Millennials hope to give value and be valued; so next week, I write about real history makers who truly had great achievements that we still benefit from today, and what we can glean from their Christian mindsets, not postmodern mindsets. I will delve deeper into what it means for Jesus to save us in today’s world.
Robert Browning. Sir Isaac Newton. Job.
END of Introduction.
PS: I also talked a great deal about “Truth” today – how there is much evidence for veracity of Christianity’s claims. Obviously this would be an incredibly lengthy discourse which I cannot do here at this time, so here are a couple links that may help get you started:
3 thoughts on “Millennials and The Elephant in the Room. (Part 1 of 5)”
Ken, I read these references today and thought it fit well with your “thesis” on how post-modernism is really nothing new. Consider 1 Corinthians 3:19 ” For the wisdom of this age is foolishness with God, as it is written ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’ (Job 5:13).” Post-modernism, the latest label placed on today’s version of this age’s so called wisdom is really foolishness. Job said in (6:13) that his ability to help himself was driven away. Without wisdom from God (the spirit of wisdom), we will all end up like Nietzsche or Thoreau in the end. Thanks be to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who tell us to “be wise as serpents.” Our lives depend on it.
-Your fellow sojourner
Michael, thanks for your insightful contribution. I’ll try to digest and integrate this into the sea of ideas that I am been trying to shape. The verse prior to this is amazingly instructive, “Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise.” 1 Cor 3″18. This is something I have experienced to be true in almost all facets of my life. If you follow what everyone is doing and thinking, you will not be outstanding. Things which are treasures, are brilliant, or are truly outstanding is usually not found where the mainstream focus is. So true about Thoreau (Transcendentalism) and Nietzsche (Nihilism). In a way, isn’t what is going on now a mixture of the two? Basically, cut away God, and how we are today is a mixture of philosophies. I suspect that people are going to cycle through all these philosophies in their own lives at an accelerated pace even without formally knowing it’s name and form. My prayer is when they have finished cycling through, they may see God at the end of the tunnel.
This published post is actually half the size of my original writing, I had cut away much of it to keep it more brief… your discussions add needed insights.
I appreciate you.