We tend to get better at the easy, largely technical stuff.
We do our math homework first, and then settle in for a long frustrating night of trying our hand at a sonnet. There’s a reason the movies you watch these days seem 90% CGI, 8% sex and 2% soul: Beautiful people are cheap; photo-realistic “alien flesh-slime” is likely available as an After Effects plug-in, but you could wrestle, for months, trying to decipher what little quirk of spirit animates Daisy Buchanan. As expensive as the technical effects are, the story is really what we’re looking for, and what that story tells us about our souls. We want to be in love. We want to have someone to weep for. We want some view of the world that lets us sleep at night and leaves us anxious to wake up the next morning.
Typically, when there is no dictator painting Spartan visions of a martial future, and no Puritan band imagining a City on a Hill, when there is no Holy Text thundering axioms about debt and work and love and family, we don’t lose our need for meaning. We seek it in “one percent” justice, or broken glass ceilings, or identity tolerance or sexual liberty.
All of this can get very weird.
My wife pointed out a dude walking on the sidewalk near our car, as we were stuck in surface street traffic. He was wearing a dress and high heels. He was doing his best to be a “she,” but I defy any reasonable person to conclude anything remotely “female” radiating from that point on the compass. There is the thing itself – a big, broad-shouldered guy trying to be a woman, and then there is the new social contract – the demand we all pretend it’s a woman. I’m not sure which is more depressing, probably the latter. It’s one thing to be insane. It’s another to have no hope for anyone being sane within miles.
I can’t help thinking there is a grinding despair at work among the American elites that is not felt among the rest of us. A deal has been brokered that we are not privy to. They have friends who have too much money and time, and so weird sex, Arab petro-loyalties and polite “status quo” policy making have become their bonding reality. They don’t believe the same things, even among themselves, but they are anxious we don’t stop the cash flow. Don’t ruin the economy of the seven counties nearest Washington D.C.
Ponder this: Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K. both found “meaning” in exposing themselves to women. Pardon the turn of phrase, but this really is “a thing.” Some men don’t actually want to “have” women at all. They want women to watch them “having” themselves. Can I be forgiven for not understanding this? Will this be some new identity I am asked to work into some 1st grade math curriculum?
Throughout my life as a living historian, trying to show people what it was like to live in the 18th century, I’ve struggled to explain the value of the past. I love my array of high-end workstations. I adore my company Creative Cloud account. I am grateful my dermatologist could remove a cancerous growth from my lip using MOHS surgery, microscopes, and precise, cell by cell extraction. My wife and I are planning a trip to Nashville for our 30th anniversary. Our journey will not feature, God willing, broken wheels and mules dying of distemper, and savage exchanges with Commanches. We will drink champagne at 30,000 feet, praise be to God, and we will Uber-app our way to the hotel on our smart phones.
That’s the easy part, folks. Human beings get better at technology. Life can be easier, more leisurely, with more time to read, and think, and debate.
But if we don’t learn the soul truths underneath all the technology, if we don’t seek the Grand Creator of the Universe, we are proven, as a species, to take weird diversions. We can use the technology to scrape children right out of our womens’ wombs. We can put tits on a bull. We can leisure ourselves into a fluid sexuality that becomes abusive and self-seeking and even violent. Even more strange, we are prone to make our idiosyncratic diversions “justice” issues and we can heap the ridiculous upon the ridiculous, looking more and more strange, and hopeless along the way. If we don’t watch out, God leaves us there, alone with our depraved minds.
In all of this, I am starting to think – despite my depravity – that I’m something like Aunt Bea on the Andy Griffith show. Simple. Not very exotic. Boy meets Girl. They have a family. You don’t need any complicated math for that, or any baroque CGI. It’s mysterious enough. I’m still not quite sure how to kiss my wife, or when to try it, but I’m telling you the journey is far more complicated, and interesting, than anything the world has come up with to replace it.