a coming revolution within mormon culture — umm what??

Executive summary:  Someone writes a long article complaining about Mormons being too judgy and how there’s gonna be a “revolution” against it.  I write an article that’s almost as long explaining why this is a dumb premise and how there’s already a revolution going on within Mormonism.

My article:

Hello, what’s this?  Why, it’s a long article that essentially amounts to yet another complaint within a restrictive “Puritanical” religion that its members are too judgmental!  Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

The Coming Revolution Inside of Mormonism

Money quotes:

  • I can imagine a time not too far off where a gay man, a straight man, a biker with full body tats, a woman who smokes, a man who reeks of liquor, a recently married couple who is having trouble with tithing, a recently re-baptized excommunicated member, a man with a full beard and jeans, and a returned missionary who is addicted to porn sitting in the same congregation together, who make it through all three hours of church without someone dressing them down with their eyes or their words…It’ll be a time where the families in that congregation recognize how hard it is for people to set foot inside a church once they feel like they’ve strayed too far.
  • [[boring story from author’s mission about the time he met someone who had “strayed from the path” and how it totally changed his perspective]]

Sometimes I see blogs about Mormon life and wonder if it’s just a Utah thing.  (Just like I see things in my own life and wonder if it’s just an LA thing.)  Call me ignorant if you like, but I guess I forget there are still wards where people whisper disapprovingly because they see a tattoo.  Hate to break it to you, but those people aren’t in the demo for a blog which is complaining about those people.  And to be honest, much of our membership needs to do a little bit more judging (more on this later).

After the complaints, the rest of the article describes a “revolution” sweeping through the Church whereby members change their ways and all the author’s complaints are fixed.  I found it confusing.  It was like he was describing the Millennium.   Yeah, you know how God “called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them?”  Let’s just do that!

Uh, yeah dude, there will be a revolution that ushers in Millennial-like conditions.  It’s called, “The Millennium.”

More quotes:

  • I believe this revolution will produce an environment in which people always feel comfortable when they step inside a church building. It’ll feel like home. They’ll never have to feel like they’ve got to watch their back. They’ll never have to worry about what sister so and so thinks about her outfit, or what brother such and such thinks about the fact that he returned home early from his mission.
  • I wonder if people looked at the Sons of Mosiah and said… “Who do they think they are? How can they be missionaries? How can they represent Christ? How can they give advice in church when they were the vilest of sinners?”
  • I see a place where people have study groups again to provide support for those that need friends to talk to about the things they hear on the internet and social media. I see a place where people support one another, ask questions, resolve concerns, and speak honestly about the things that give them trouble in life and in the church. I see a time where “home-teaching” is just referred to as “ministering” and more lessons will revolve around love and not quotas. I see a time where “fellowshipping” will be replaced by “friendshipping” and where pure love is a stronger motivator than guilt.
  • I think this revolution will produce a people who don’t make a checklist of things they can and cannot do on the Sabbath… and then hold others to their own standard and checklist.

OK, now it sounds like the “I Have a Dream” speech.

Look, should Mormons be more loving?  Should we be more willing to step outside our friendship circles and embrace others?  Should we develop a genuine interest in others so when we reach out it feels natural instead of like we’re fulfilling an obligation?  Hell yes.  There’s so much untapped potential for good in our membership that can strengthen others and build our communities (more on this later).  I’ve long said that Mormons can be a weird bunch with plenty of failings but they really are the best people I know.

That’s all that really needs to be said about the article.  It has good ideas for things to work on (Although he is overthinking the whole “how to be more accepting” idea and I’ve found when Mormons do this they start being weird.) but entirely misses the point about the actual revolution that will happen within Mormonism.  In fact, it’s going on right now.

Our prophets and leaders have alluded to it over and over and over again.  They’ll do it again this coming weekend during General Conference.  The line between God’s ways and the world’s ways continues to become more defined and more perilous to cross.  Yes, there is a coming revolution, my friend, but it will be among those who seek to keep one foot in the world and one foot in the Gospel.  It will be between friends and family who look at each other on opposite sides of the line.  We’ve already seen members fall away because of it and in the coming years the battle will only worsen.  The world will hate us even more and those who to even a small degree hold to the world’s approval will find themselves increasingly distant from the Church and God’s people.

This is what I meant above when I said Mormons need to do a little bit more judging.  Not the prejudiced and mean-spirited judging this guy talked about, but a righteous judgment, separating truth from error, wickedness from righteousness, and worldliness from godliness.  Accepting and loving all people, but holding (“grasping” as the scripture says) to the iron Word of God.

Let me tell you what I now see: I see members who tolerate too much of the world–too much degenerate culture–in their own lives.  Who consume media that is repugnant and degrading.  Who prioritize frivolity over spirituality.  Who try to be so accepting of other lifestyles that they slip into the falsehood that is moral relativism.  Who tolerate things like abortion or physician-assisted suicide because it coincides with some of their other political ideas (see the recent Women’s March).  Who are more interested in material goods than a savings account.  I speak strongly of these things because I myself fall victim to this spiritually-dangerous way of thinking far too often.

Again, there is so much untapped good among our membership.  The world will cry for men and women of principle and lightness to lead them and their communities.  People to whom they can look who will display confidence and poise in the coming times in which “there shall be… distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear.”

Let us be prepared for this revolution.

breakthrough: trying to find love while also being obsessed with physical looks will always be a disaster

According to this rather insightful article, LDS singles  (and I’ll extend it to non-Mormons, too) are too caught up into whether or not their partners are physically attractive. They think that they won’t have as enjoyable of sex or that they will be always looking for the better option and thus will not have a successful relationship.

The Myth of Attraction

While the author–who has a fair bit of experience with this kind of thing (17 years as a dating coach, nbd)–seems to focus on advice for those actually in relationships, I’m going to use my extensive experience with being single to adapt this to the earliest stages of a relationship, specifically dating. I believe my advice below will set the proper tone for the relationship at its inception and therefore will prevent the problems Ms. Goodwin identifies in her article.

This whole notion of young people ruining relationships because they are too unwittingly obsessed with physical beauty lends credence to my belief that singles wards should be abolished. So should online dating. So should social media. It’s quite simple; if you’re not successful on the dating market, then there are two solutions: 1) lower your standards or 2) raise your own value. But social media, online dating, and singles wards discourage both those solutions for most people.

People are not lowering their standards because in the singles-wards-social-media-online-dating environment they are faced with too many high-quality options. When you see beautiful people in such high quantity, you naively believe you can date above your pay-grade. You can’t. And you shouldn’t. You’ll be happier if you stay in your lane. Sure, things like dating apps have made it easier for you to come in contact with a higher number of eligible partners, but it’s done the same for a million other people, too. Supply went up but guess what? Demand is more than ready to match it.

The 3-headed-monster of social media, online dating, and singles wards also discourages people from raising their own value. When you have so many pretty people to look at, at some level you think, “Surely I’ll be able to find one date-able person in this group without changing myself.” All it takes is one, right? Just the one person and then you’ll be happy? We’ve all seen the love stories that contribute to the “there’s someone out there for everyone” sappy story.

Sorry, kids, but that’s loser talk. That’s how people who play the lottery think and that’s why they never win and that’s why they suck. You find a partner the same way you find a job–by doing everything you can to boost your resume and then getting out there and hitting the bricks, pursuing every opportunity.

“There’s someone out there for everyone?” No, there’s not. You’ve been sold a pack of lies and deluded yourself into thinking this is true because one time you saw a goofy guy find a nice girl or an overwhelmed-with-her-job girl get swept off her feet by some dude with a romantic job like teacher or wildlife photographer.  And again, you are susceptible to this belief because it doesn’t require you to change.  The truth is, there’s someone out there for everyone who tries hard and doesn’t think their shit doesn’t smell (i.e., that they’re too good for some people). There’s no one out there for people with unrealistically high standards who also don’t improve themselves.

How’s that for a pep talk? Now get over here and I’ll slap you on the ass as you run out the door. Beyond it lies your future!

face to face with ysa mormons and elder holland

If you don’t know much about the Church, don’t worry about it, just skip this one.

The setup: On Monday, Elder Jeffrey Holland of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles (the chief governing body of the Church), gave essentially a Q&A to YSAs (young single adults) all over the world.  It was a worldwide broadcast but was supposed to be directed a this targeted group, giving us a much more intimate feel than the standard broadcasts targeted at the entire church.  As a note, YSAs are ages 18-31 and typically have their own congregations.  That’s about it as far as background goes.

This was a 2-hour broadcast and I cannot respond to everything.  In fact, the vast majority of the material was very nice but it won’t make for a great post if I just transcribe quotes and then give them a verbal thumbs-up.  As such, I will respond to the things that I thought were wrong, needed further development, or just could use my unique and self-absorbed perspective tacked onto the end.  Keep in mind, this is the perspective of someone who the broadcast was targeted at.  So I may be wrong in my opinions, but the opinion itself may be a useful indication of how young members of the Church are feeling.

So while the tone of this may seem like I didn’t like the broadcast and the leaders, that’s not true at all.  Almost everything talked about ranged from “fine” to “decently insightful.”  Nothing that was “OMG exceptional,” or life-changing, but it was still a nice, standard Church meeting.

On to the cherry-picking of quotes from the broadcast:

Question: “How can I be single in the Church and be happy at the same time?  It seems the older I get, the two can’t coexist.”

Sister Stephens response included this: “We aren’t defined by our marital status in the Church.”

But we are, Sister Stephens.  We are.  I can’t tell if this quote represents someone who is very out of touch or if they are just being too optimistic.  The Mormon Church has a culture of families.  Not just spouses, but families.  Speaking of the doctrine of families, Elder Holland said earlier in the meeting, “The only thing that we know, for a governing principle–and the governance of people in heaven, are families.  That’s all we’ve been taught and, so far as I know, that’s all that’s there.”

“We’re not going to stop talking about the ideal,” Elder Holland continued.  He’s right, of course, but the fact is, if you don’t have your own family, Mormonism is an uncomfortable community to be a part of and it’s one of the reasons I believe the YSA activity rates are in the toilet (sorry, don’t know if we’re supposed to mention that).

We all know the doctrine and its clear that the full blessings of the Gospel and the Church are not available to singles.  This doctrine trickles down from pure teachings and creates the day-to-day culture of Mormonism.  And the culture that we’ve got is dismissive to YSAs and often pays them nothing more than lip service.  I swear there’s an underlying opinion from the family “wards” (i.e., congregations) that we YSAs are second class members.  Elder Holland alluded to it later: “We just want to talk to you as adults… We see you as adults… We see you peer-to-peer and friend-to-friend.”  Well, it sure doesn’t seem that way.  I still think there’s often an underlying condescension when YSAs hear things from our leaders, as seen in Elder Holland jokingly reminding everyone in the room that we are God’s “little ones.”  While that is definitely true, it’s not something you hear directed towards other adults in the Church.  But who knows?  Maybe I’m just overly sensitive.

Question: [Something about women serving missions.]

Elder Holland: “We’re very grateful for those [sister missionaries] who go… We went from something like… 8 or 10 or 12 percent to 30 or 35% of the missionaries of the Church being young women and everybody knows that a sister is twice as effective as three elders.”

Well here’s the math on this this one:

1 sister = (3 elders) * 2

So one sister is 6 elders, I guess?

Explain to me why it’s acceptable for an Apostle to make jokes at the expense of male missionaries.  Just another example of modern culture creeping into the culture of the Church; that, of course, being the modern acceptance of people mocking men or implying we are half-wits in order to flatter women.  I love Elder Holland but that joke was bullshit and it’s too bad so many people laughed.  I was a missionary and I supervised the work of many male missionaries.  We are not worth 1/6 of a female missionary.  If anything, in my experience, the women on average were bigger headaches for the mission leadership.  It’s just the type of casual “men suck” jokes that are hacky, played out, and have no place in a Church meeting that’s supposed to be about encouraging YSAs.

Question: [Something regarding preparation for marriage]

Sister Stephens: “We reviewed a lot of questions and one of them was, ‘If we find out someone we’re dating or someone we’re serious about has an issue with pornography, should we continue to date them or should we run?’… [Answering this question:] Are you dating someone who has a good heart, who’s honest about it, who’s willing to work with you?… What’s the condition of his heart?  I think that’s where a lot of this decision will come [from]… You’re going to have to have the Spirit work really close with you… to be able to discern if this is going to work or not.  I think we don’t want to ever give up on anyone.”

Pretty good answer from Sister Stephens.  Church leaders don’t usually do so good when giving advice regarding dating and pornography.  I’ve even heard–from a very reliable source–rumors of at least one prominent leader telling girls at a fireside to refuse to marry a man who used to look at porn.  Be that as it may, I’m on board with this answer from the good sister.

A caveat to this is that for many women, this advice won’t matter.  They will just end the relationship.  They won’t care about this advice–and I’m not saying they should–that’s just how it is.  Mormon women are petrified of pornography and while I agree that it’s a blight on our modern world, it’s merely a symptom of a sick society and men who use it are merely self-treating for an unfulfilled emotional need.  It’s not about the porn.  (I will probably write more on this at a future date.)

Question: [Regarding the status of gay members and how hard it can be in the Church for them.]

Elder Holland: “Let me say this to begin a response: I think we have talked altogether too much about gender and altogether too little about chastity… We do not make a judgment about someone’s attraction… We don’t make any attempt to say why that happened or how that happened… What we do say is that we teach chastity… We just go with what the Lord has declared… It’s at least as much spiritual as physical.

Now, when that [homosexual] attraction exists, we ask exactly what we ask with heterosexual feelings…and that is be faithful.  Be clean.  Be chaste.  And for you, every blessing of this Church is available including the Sacraments, the ordinances, going to the Temple… whatever you need and whatever you desire and hope, those blessings are available to the chaste… It’s in the governing handbooks that are given to the Priesthood leaders of the Church.  Now if some members fall short in that, then shame on them.  And if I haven’t done well enough to teach that, then shame on me… We’re not making them [gays] second-class citizens… but there are commandments.”

“We would be the first to say that every person is welcome at the Church and in our circles and in our associations and in our friendship on the basis of everyone trying to keep the commandments.”

Wonderful answer from Elder Holland with a caveat.  He failed to address the idea of gays in the Church being second-class citizens from a cultural standpoint.  To Elder Holland’s point, the doctrine is very clear that there is no second-class citizenship in the Lord’s church.  But culturally?  It is weird.  It’s outside the norm, people often have a hard time accepting it, and I don’t see this changing very quickly.  My apologies to gays everywhere.

However, if you are gay and feeling strange and out of place, instead of coddling you, I’ll give you some real-world advice: move.  If you currently live your everyday life being uncomfortable and being treated weird by well-meaning but dorky members, just move.  Trust me.  If you’re a gay YSA in places like Los Angeles, New York, D.C., Austin–really, the more liberal places–no one cares, everyone’s used to it, and you’ll be fine.   You’re more likely to be comfortable, have friends, and fit in.  Again, trust me.

Elder Holland is right about the availability of blessings but, come on, we all know you can’t achieve the highest blessings if you’re gay.  Of course you can technically achieve all the blessing if you’re gay and you don’t act on it but instead get a wife and have kids, but guess what?  If you’re super gay (as opposed to leaning more bisexual or being comfortable switching to the standard team completely) that would probably be miserable for you.  So yeah–it sucks but I don’t know what else to tell you.  Seek help from others who’ve gone through the same thing.

Follow-up question: “A lot of people who struggle with homosexual attraction feel that happiness is not available for them because of whatever reason.  What words of hope do you have for them that there is happiness?”

Elder Holland: “In my professional life, I’ve only had two married secretaries… and all the others have been single.  And those women can just as justifiably ask the same question… ‘What is there for me?  What hope is there?’  I say there is hope for all of us.  I don’t know when–some blessings come now, some blessings come later, some blessings don’t come till heaven, but they come.  Every word that God has ever uttered will be honored and fulfilled.  Every word.”

Perfect answer from Holland and clarifies one of my points from above, although it doesn’t make being gay and Mormon any easier while you’re living your day-to-day life.  At least, I don’t think it does.  Ask a gay guy/girl for a real opinion here instead of my moronic one.

Conclusion:

It was a nice event and for a worldwide broadcast, I really did feel like Elder Holland and the other two were directly speaking to the YSAs of the Church.  However, in terms of content, there just wasn’t much that was any different than any other Church broadcast.  I understand that it’s hard to very candid in front of a global audience, even an audience that’s limited to YSAs, but I just wish Church leaders could occasionally speak with the frankness that I know they use in smaller meetings.

music and storytime friday: second hand news

Many years ago my family took a summer vacation to Sunriver, Oregon.  Sunriver is a small community in the high desert of central Oregon, just on the leeward side of the Cascade mountain range, that functions as a getaway spot for Oregonians coming from the nearby rainy section of the state.  Once you arrive in Sunriver and get settled, the best form of transportation during the summertime is bicycling.  The entire community, stores, and the like are completely accessible via nicely paved bike trails.  Implication: kids LOVE it.

Anyway, that summer my mom packed the kids into the old Dodge Caravan and drove us the 3 1/2 hours to Sunriver from Portland.  I don’t remember the year, but I couldn’t have been more than 11 or 12 at at time.  Dad met us a day or so later in his ’88 Mazda B-Series pickup (the same truck I would total in just a few short years) carrying all the stuff that didn’t fit in the minivan, including a few bicycles and fishing gear.

It’s worth noting that as kids, we didn’t ride in Dad’s truck very often, but not for any reason other than efficiency.  He used the truck primarily to commute to the park-n-ride where he caught the bus to downtown Portland and for hauling tools or junk around the property.  Mom drove us most places on a day-to-day basis and when the whole family went somewhere, we naturally took the minivan.

At the end of a fun week at Sunriver we loaded all the gear back into the respective vehicles.  Seemingly out of nowhere, my dad asked if I wanted to ride with him in the truck back home while my brothers rode in the other car with Mom.  In all likelihood, the invitation was probably just a passing suggestion (or even merely a matter of logistics), but I remember jumping at the chance to ride just Dad and me.

It was a hot day and the Mazda didn’t have air conditioning like the Dodge van did, but I didn’t care–the windows were down and we were cruising.  As we left Sunriver and escaped the large neighboring city of Bend and began our climb over the Highway 20 pass to western Oregon, my dad opened a bag and took out an album I had never heard: Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors.  Now that I’m thinking about it, I can’t recall a time prior to this in which Dad shared any piece of pop culture with me that wasn’t an old war movie.

Right in front of the Mazda’s gear shift, under the vent controls, was a brand new Pioneer CD player and–something I would not realize until the truck became mine–behind our seats were two 6×9 speakers in dedicated boxes, also brand new and ready.  Rumors went into the slot and Dad turned up the volume.  And as we all know, the first song is “Second Hand News.”

The moment Lindsey Buckingham’s voice came in loud and clear with, “I knoooooow,” I was transfixed.  There was no head bobbing or rocking out.  I couldn’t think of anything to say or do and ended up staring at the track time on the Pioneer deck.  What a song!  There was wind, engine noise, and the thumping of the bass drum in the back of our seats.  The album went on: “I can still hear you saying, you would never break the chain–never break the chain!”

After a few songs played, I probably said something stupid like, “I like this,” and then gazed out the windows at the passing trees and the distant mountain peaks while I listened.  I don’t think Dad or I said anything the rest of the album.  I never knew he liked Fleetwood Mac.

We grew up with Dad taking us on camping trips, golfing, fishing, Church activities, shooting, and telling us stories of his youth.  There were no shortage of outings or moments with Dad.  But there was something about this time, the first of many road trips with him, where he seemed like he was more than a father–he was a man with opinions and tastes and history that I was just beginning to glimpse and now, almost 20 years later, I still don’t think I’ve got the whole picture.

#OregonUnderAttack and Mormons

Something about states’ rights.  Federal overreach.  2nd Amendment.  Protesters and such.

Don’t caaare.

But I do care a little bit when the protesters are citing Mormonism.

The family behind the Oregon militia cites Mormon beliefs for armed conflicts with the government

Explainer: The Bundy Militia’s Particular Brand Of Mormonism

 

I didn’t read the two articles too carefully, but I didn’t really see anything wrong with the characterizations of the Church, the doctrine, or the Book of Mormon.

A little background: Captain Moroni and the Title of Liberty is one of the great stories of the Book of Mormon.  It’s about the righteous people of the land rising up against a government that no longer represented them and, in the face of annihilation by a foreign power, fighting for their lives, religion, and families.  They rent* their garments and cast them at the feet of Moroni, swearing an oath that they would uphold the Title of Liberty.  A return to tradition and to God.

Of course, it’s inspiring.  It would make one hell of a Hollywood movie.   Of course, you’d be dumb to not notice any parallels to today’s society, especially if you’re of the small-government-is-best persuasion.  Additionally, as Mormons, we are frequently told that we should “liken scripture unto ourselves” and that the Book of Mormon was written for our day.

But a call to action this story is not.  In fact, nowhere in the Book of Mormon is there any instruction on when or why to take up arms against the government.  For that, please just read the Declaration of Independence.

However, Church leadership apparently thought these things were worth responding to.  In a news release, the Church asserted there was no doctrinal support for Mr. Bundy and Company’s protest (and they’re right).

With respect to the Church leadership preempting any more bad publicity, everyone (including the leadership) needs to pump the brakes on worrying about the Oregon protest’s Mormon ideological roots.  In fact, let’s all just pump the brakes on the Oregon protest in general.

What’s actually happening in Oregon?  A federal judge ordered a couple of people to do something that they’re going to do and then a bunch of people occupied a building no one uses in the middle of nowhere.  Captain Moroni stormed the capital with an army and hanged traitors by the boatload.  Bundy and Co. called up a few buddies and hung out by their pickup trucks.

Cool it, everyone.  The world is not burning.  Actually, nothing is burning.  I think it’s likely that if everyone ignored the protest, they’d get bored and go home on their own.

 

* Yes, I had to look that up.

Mormon church establishes policy on children of gay couples

Permit me, as a Mormon, to give a member’s perspective on the Mormon Church and gay marriage.  If you’re not interested in religious talk, skip down to other entries that contain my usual insults, foul language, and crude grammar.

LDS Church does not allow children of same sex couples to join

This has been all over the news.  Reactions are everywhere.  On one extreme we have members who are unsurprised and glad the Church is making a stand for morality despite the backlash from the rest of the world.  On the other hand we have those who hate the Church and see this as another opportunity to hurl stones.

But in the middle are many good people who are confused and even distraught at the news.  Well-meaning people who just want to understand.

Well here comes Elder Christofferson to the rescue:

 

It’s hard for people to understand that while doctrine never changes, Church policy changes all the time. Doctrine is given by God to the prophets and is based on eternal principles and eternal law. Church policy is created by imperfect men and is used for the administration of the Gospel and to provide practical instruction in cases where the doctrinal principle doesn’t. These men try their hardest to follow the Holy Spirit, but they are just men and are fallible. Therefore, it is impossible for policy to be perfect and we’ve even seen that sometimes the Church admits the previous policy decisions were wrong (like with blacks and the Priesthood).

That does not mean this particular policy is wrong or may ever be changed. In fact, we operate on the belief that it never will change. What it does means is that here is the point where members exercise faith in those who are appointed (not paid) to lead us. The merits of being a part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are too great to be cast off because policy is not perfect. You may agree with it or you may not. You may understand it or you may not. The policy may completely correct or it may be changed later. But what we do know is that the greatest blessings in this life and in the life to come are found within Jesus Christ’s Church and following the His Apostles who lead it.

Whatever your circumstance, we believe that God is a fair and loving god and that it will all work out in the end. Some inequalities may happen in this life but that’s kind of the way the life works. It sucks and can be very hard, but that’s just how it’s supposed to be. Sorry if you’re just learning this. You may decide that something like this is too much and that you can’t be in a Church that has policies like this. As for me in my life, though, I have found (sometimes the hard way) that I have been the most blessed and happiest when I stick with the Church. So yeah, I’m gonna keep doing that. And I will continue to support the Brethren (Church leadership).

 

***

 

Not for nothing, but before all these non-Mormons gets too worked up about a policy affecting only a few thousand people, you guys realize we’re talking about a religion right? A religion that is based on supernatural occurrences? I know all of Christianity is based on miracles, but some churches these days don’t literally believe in the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection. Not Mormons. You’re dealing with people who literally believe that Jesus Christ and God (and later a bunch of angels) appeared to a 14-year-old boy and told him to establish the Church. Literally. Like, without these supernatural events, we have no religion. We claim no truth or authority. It’s hilarious to me how everyone gets on their high horse calling Mormons bigots over stuff like this when they should be calling us insane. Insanity trumps bigotry in my mind. If you’re insane, who even cares if you’re a bigot? So how about you leave us alone when we decide how to deal with fellow insane members who happen to be gay? And if you don’t think we’re insane, that means you’re religious, too, and must be insane as well. So you don’t count.

 

a happiness pep talk for generation y

Here’s an article I found that I thought was worth responding to.

Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy

Ah, the plight of the affluent 20-somethings.  The disillusionment that comes from being in their first or second job out of college, with plenty of disposable income, having no real responsibilities (e.g., commitments to anyone but themselves)… but also with no idea what they want to do with their lives.  Maybe they have a volunteer activity or a “cause” (ugh) they put time into, or a dog, or an interesting hobby they’re all about.  Maybe they like drinking and sports; maybe it’s board games; maybe they’re a television junkie or an outdoorsy type.  Odds are they regularly see the same half dozen-ish friends and know they should make some changes in their lives, but can’t work up the motivation since their lives, while being currently unsatisfactory, are rather comfortable.

This should all sound familiar.  It’s not a bad life, per se, but if you sat these people down and said, “Are you happy?” few could give a “yes” and be certain.

On its own, the article I referenced above isn’t terribly insightful because the author buys into the same trappings that landed our Gen Y heroes in the mess they’re in.  Specifically, that pursuing meaningless things can actually provide meaning in your own life.  This is a mistake (and we’ll come back to it later).  Not realizing this, the author supposes that the source of happiness comes from the following, made easy with his graphic:

I guess this is kind of a clever thought since I’ve been saying the same thing literally for years.  Except in my version “Happiness” is replaced with “Level of Rage During Traffic Jam.”  Think about it.

As we go on, though, I’ll point out that while I called this equation clever, it is “fun to discuss at parties” clever, not “describing the human condition” clever.  But the author takes it for the latter and is off to the races.  Let me summarize his argument: happiness = reality – expectations; reality is crappier now than it was for your parents so you can’t have the same things they did with the same effort; you’ve been raised on sunshine and rainbows and those goddamn participation trophies so your expectations are too high for your own life; everyone else thinks also they’re special and like to brag about that; you see them bragging and become more dismayed; all these things together means you are unhappy; QED.

His solutions?  I’ll actually quote him here.

1) Stay wildly ambitious.  The current world is bubbling with opportunity for an ambitious person to find flowery, fulfilling success.  The specific direction may be unclear, but it’ll work itself out—just dive in somewhere.
 2) Stop thinking that you’re special.  The fact is, right now, you’re not special.  You’re another completely inexperienced young person who doesn’t have all that much to offer yet.  You can become special by working really hard for a long time.
 3) Ignore everyone else. Other people’s grass seeming greener is no new concept, but in today’s image crafting world, other people’s grass looks like a glorious meadow. The truth is that everyone else is just as indecisive, self-doubting, and frustrated as you are, and if you just do your thing, you’ll never have any reason to envy others.

 

I don’t want to slam this article too much because these solutions are not bad things.  In fact, they’re things that every mature person should learn and the sooner he learns them, the better.  But the key to happiness they are not.

What is the key then?  I’ll answer that by exploring another question.  That is, what is our purpose in existing?  As a religious man, I could wax on and on about that using mystic phrases, but I’m going to be more concrete instead and think of it in terms of biology and evolution. *   Now I admit, I don’t know much about either one of those things, but I do have a few simple truths.  Namely, 1) humans are social creatures; 2) along with all other species, our most powerful instinct is survival; first, for ourselves and second, for our posterity; 3) the family is the most effective way to ensure future generations.  Therefore, according to biology, family is the only thing that should matter to you.  To the extent that Millennials continue to deny this biological purpose, they will continue to feel unfulfilled.  Their bodies and minds know deep down what they need to be doing.

Something that surprises many girls I’ve gone out with is that I don’t give two shits what they do for a living.  It sometimes (usually) is a turn-off for them because for many young women their job is very important to them and they are very proud of it.  I’m looking for something more from them because NONE OF THAT OTHER STUFF MATTERS!  “You are not your job.  You’re not how much money you have in the bank.  You’re not the car you drive.  You’re not the contents of your wallet.  You’re not your fucking khakis.

In short, happiness is found in fulfilling your purpose for existence.  In less abstract terms, happiness is in family and faith.  I explained family but now for some words on faith.  I don’t care what your faith or religion is, but it does matter.  While family defines your place in humanity faith defines your place in the universe.  It promotes peace of mind through a willingness to accept things you cannot understand or cannot change.  It can provide the contentment that comes from living in accordance with a philosophy promoted by a higher and wiser power.  Faith is very much a choice and for those of you who choose to not believe in anything I ask you, in the grand scheme of things what does believing hurt?  Would life really be so bad if you exercised a little faith in something?  By having no faith in anything are you really better off in your personal life?  Are you really making the world a better place?  Examine the lives of those who do believe and reevaluate your answers.

Now let’s circle back to my beginning complaints about how everyone is wasting their time on stupid stuff and get some closure: You can have hobbies.  You can have a dog and a job you like and TV shows you never miss.  But never lose track of your primary purpose.  “What matters most is what lasts longest.”  This can be hard for those of us who currently can’t find “the one” but the prize is worth the fight, however long it may last.  Take it from almost anyone living this lifestyle and from thousands of years of human history.  In our rush to usher in a new age of gender roles and family redefinitions, we made the fatal error of assuming that there was nothing worthwhile in tradition.

Despite its failings, the article we reviewed above is indicative of one important thing: that we’re finally starting to notice how unhappy we all are.  Perhaps we’ve known this for some time, but I think we’re starting to understand that our lack of happiness may be coming from the culture in which we were raised, as opposed to a condition that needs medication.

However, there is still a long way to go.  The big crux that everyone is missing is that you’re unhappy because your life is being spent in the pursuit of things that cannot ever make you happy.  Not only does the article miss this but most of modern society misses this.  In fact, it may well be the leading cause conflict in our first-world lives.  But that topic will have to be left for another day.  A day when I’m not trying to figure out which of my drinking buddies should take care of my dog next month while I backpack through Europe with my new camera trying to learn photography.

 

* There’s so much more about the evolution of the family that is far beyond the scope of this short post.  By way of a short (and rather ignorant) overview, men have an instinctive desire to spread their genes as much as possible — hence the male drive to have sex with as many women as possible.  (Best chance for posterity given fragile human infants = spread your seed as much as possible.)  Conversely, women have a instinctive desire to “nest” in a monogamous relationship.  This is mostly because 1) their procreative years are much shorter than men’s, 2) they are the physically weaker sex, and 3) human pregnancy is long and for the most part only involves one child at a time.  The most advanced human cultures settled long ago on the monogamous family relationship in which the woman gets her male protector/provider and the man, rather than being unable to care for many children by many women, instead properly cares for fewer children by one women (quality over quantity).  This explains why 1) the traditional household is still the best model, 2) it is more socially acceptable for men to sleep around than women (not than they should), and 3) differences in the sexes should be celebrated rather than stifled.