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Chapter 5 - The Modern Family
Today It is unusual to have more than one sibling, to have even one grandparent in residence, to know or even have met a cousin, aunt or uncle. Many homes are like boarding houses where four people, each with their own work (or school), friends, activities, and interests, share an occasional meal.
Most relationships with friends are with those we know as a result of proximity at work or school, those with whom we share an interest or activity, or those who are simply interested in our Facebook page. In a society defined by consumption and entertainment, relationships are not only superficial, but tend towards only that which sustains pleasurable feelings.
One way humans were enticed into the social world from the natural world was through the comforts and prosperity incrementally offered as inducements to accept an increasingly collectivized life. This process has so changed us that we have come to consider our comfort so important that even the prospect of a brief encounter with someone less than pleasant can be a horrifying possibility. College students today are increasingly called 'snowflakes" because they seem to be emotionally fragile and 'triggered" by anything they consider unpleasant to such an extent they need to recover in a 'safe space".
One might contrast the natural world (based on truth) with the social world (based on feelings). The natural world has room for God and others. The feeling world only has room for self. Like for the drug addict or the alcoholic, life becomes more and more focused on the next source of stimulation. Relationships become more and more superficial and sought in terms of their ability to supply pleasurable feelings.
To get some insight as to how relationships came to be viewed in terms of the feelings they could provide, we can take a look at what happened in the US in the 1950s. Suburbia was the successful marketing of an idea to WWII veterans who had become nostalgic for a romanticized ideal of country life. Knowing the frustrations of concentrated urban apartment life, they were attracted to the assumed freedom and idyllic life they imagined for their families. As if to underscore this hopeful pursuit of what they imagined to be a better life, one can observe the brief reversal in the declining birth rate during the 1950s and early 1960s.
Fueled by the prosperity and consumptive consumerism incumbent to the last one standing after WWII, the children born into suburbia in the US had significantly less paternal influence (as fathers were commuting to work away from home) while maternal influence had been subverted by 'experts' such as Dr. Spock who told mothers that discipline was harmful to children and that their native maternal affection was sufficient to raise healthy happy children. As a result, a generation was raised who came to value less the idea of truth, moral or any other absolutes, or any other restrictions on what pleasures they might seek. Having been bred to be ultimate consumers, they valued that which made them feel good. The idea of 'sex, drugs, and rock and roll' became a permanent fixture in society.
The adoption of feeling good as the highest human aspiration was a significant change, however, many today do not fully appreciate what a difference it makes. Feeling good puts self at the center of all things. What is best for the family puts others at the center. When we seek what is right, true, and good, we begin to put God at the center.
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