I agree with the hippies: when society is wrong, people can choose to be right. The religions of the world, for all their differences, tend to say the same sort of thing. Jesus proclaimed, “My kingdom is not of this world.” The lotus is a symbol of Buddhism because it is a flower that remains a pristine white amidst muddy waters, representing unsullied enlightenment in spite of the world’s dirt. This might ring more or less true depending on where you live. I happen to live in Washington, D.C., a city where it’s positively embarrassing to talk about God.
When I lived in Maryland, there was a food co-op that functioned as the neighborhood grocery store. It had mostly organic fare, and that the staff were hippies of all ages was made apparent by a bumper sticker that read, “They’re not hot flashes – they’re POWER SURGES!” on a manager’s desk. More interesting than that was the white Sikh man who worked there; besides his light skin and blue eyes, he looked like any other Sikh, complete with beard and distinctive keski turban. I can only imagine what kind of social pressures pushed him towards the path of least resistance – that is, looking and acting just like everybody else. But what, if not the defiance of socialization, makes great and unexpected things happen? And what else besides religion will give us the conviction to be not only a weirdo, but a weirdo who does the right thing?
I am a Catholic, and I am keenly aware that Catholicism isn’t hip. It will never be hip. It’s been passé for the better part of a millennium, and I don’t see it becoming anything but anti-cool to the celebrities, or whoever, anytime soon. Any desperately trendy Redditor will be the first one to mention this.
I mean, get with the times man! Do you really believe in a sky fairy because it’s mentioned in some old book? A book that doesn’t even support the latest rad things like intersectionality?
Thanks for the wake up call, WeedGoku420, but that isn’t a bug – it’s a feature. If there is transcendent truth out there, it doesn’t change to keep up with the latest clickbait listicles. Cultural change isn’t a bad thing, but neither are unchanging universals that refuse to be compromised. In fact, I think they are two sides of the same coin. There’s enough space in our society for both the fashionable and and the eternal. The thing about the hypothetical Redditor that we mentioned is that he isn’t great. He isn’t even good. He’s a mediocre fellow who loves Neil deGrasse Tyson, because he’s really enthusiastic about what he imagines science to be. Epic! He’s socialized by things that make are occupy some space where apparently-edgy-but-actually-inoffensive and status signaling overlap.
He is the homo passive, a human being concerned with satisfying his novelty-seeking and personal fulfillment due to his inability to gird himself against the fickle winds of change. The homo passive will often have the crisis where he says to himself, “There has to be something more to life.” This is probably a cry from a spiritually thirsty creature – but the desperately fashionable don’t even understand how to formulate a question that could lead to a thirst-quenching answer. The issue is, we are to believe, that the have run out of stimulating novelties to the point where all novelties seem pointless to pursue. Nothing is fun like it should be. But this is the wrong way of looking at it – there isn’t going to be an answer to this wrongly formulated question except for some sort of pyramid scheme of fulfillment. The question should be, “What is there that is good that is in fact a defiance of status-seeking, novelty-seeking and personal pleasure?” The answer to that is the infinite and the eternal, and it’s going to be a long, unglamorous journey that will make all the cool people think you’re fucking lame.
As my life continues, I get to newer and better vantage points from where I can see how trivial my earlier assumptions were. Back in high school, I thought the kids in plaid shorts and trucker hats were cool, but it turns out that they actually just sucked. Be a weirdo. Have thoughts that do something other than produce useful social signals, because you’ll at least exorcise the ennui of mediocrity in your mind, if not in material accomplishments. Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, said later in her life, “If I have accomplished anything in my life, it is because I wasn’t embarrassed to talk about God.” Perhaps she can commiserate with me, since she was once a D.C. resident, too.