Some people, by temperament, are more inclined to look at things from a slightly pessimistic angle (though they would probably prefer to see themselves as realistic), to see the glass as “half-empty” and to take a somewhat skeptical view of life. When someone says “You look great today,” they grow suspicious. “What’s he after?” they wonder. Melancholics tend to look askance at those of a more sanguine nature who skip through life wearing rose-colored glasses.
But the Generation Y-ers have taken the jaundiced view of life to a new level. There is the apparently hugely popular FMyLife.com, where users submit their own depressing and true stories, beginning with “Today” and ending with “FML.” For example, there was the fellow who stopped in at the house next door for a few beers, and got a DUI for simply re-parking his car. Or there was the teenager who joined his football team in shouting pick-up lines at a cute girl…who turned out to be his younger sister. You can even post these dismal tales of self-loathing on Facebook and Twitter.
Then there is failblog.com. For example, there is the street sign that says “Meth Bible Camp Rd” or the crosswalk painted “Scohol zone.” More than a mere fad, or a quirk of temperament, these are symptoms of a deeper malaise: evidence of the further decline of our culture, which is perhaps even teetering on self-destruction. Our society excludes God from the public square, rejoices in materialism, aborts its own children, and rushes headlong into an Aldous Huxleyan nightmare where we get to play God. Where technology and progress rules, where instant gratification is the norm, and no desire is considered taboo, is it any wonder that antidepressants and suicide are on the rise, or that a website dedicated to schadenfreude is enormously popular?
Even as we pursue our individual happiness, pushing science to its limits in the name of progress, we find ourselves, on the whole…depressed. As Pope Benedict writes in Spe Salvi, the fundamental error of materialism is that scientific progress and the acquisition of material wealth will make us happy. And he asks: what does progress really mean? If the progress is external only, without a corresponding progress in ethical formation–man’s inner growth–then it is not progress at all.
Instead, it becomes a threat.
A fascinating and perhaps even prophetic work, The End of the Present World, by Father Charles Arminjon, originally published in French in 1881, has just recently been translated by Susan Conroy, and published by Sophia Institute Press.
Father Arminjon describes how the advent of a civilization dominated by atheism and materialism (sounds like our present day!) will set the stage for the coming of the Antichrist. “[W]hen the Christian faith has finally died out in the hearts of men—when pleasure and well-being have become the gods of the day—human activity will then have a single goal; the power of the state; one single lever and stimulus: public opinion; one inspiration and driving force…gold.”
We should heed his warnings and be attentive to the signs of the times. But ultimately, father Arminjon’s message is reassuring, as is Pope Benedict’s message in Spe Salvi. For we are “children of the light,” not of the darkness (John 12:36). Walking in the light gives us hope.
We are created by God, for him. We cannot be happy with lesser things. Our hearts yearn for the infinite. That is why, when we fall in love, only “till death do us part” will suffice. And only God’s love can give us the hope we need to persevere throughout this vale of tears, for there are many disappointments along the way.
The world is imperfect, sin abounds, and every day there is a new fail on failblog.com.
True failure, however, unlike the humorous fails of FailBlog or the depressing tales on FML, is failure to recognize my own sinfulness before God. The illusion of my innocence, says Pope Benedict, cannot save me.
We are saved by love. Once we encounter the living God, when we have entered into an intimate relationship with him, we “become capable of the great hope, and thus we become ministers of hope for others” (Spe Salvi 52).
Our hope becomes hope for others, and for the world.