Category: generational identity

The True Story of our Times

Watched the first “Mission Impossible” last night, after having recently viewed the third. Not really interested in a critique, though I think the first and the third are uniquely the best for different reasons. But what it got me meditating on was both generations and authority. Conjoined then, the different generations view of authority. I think my own generation inherited a distrust in authority, but expanded the field of distrust out onto all of reality. But before I get there, I was reading the New York Times as I try to do every sunday, and noticed that three of the four front page articles were about breakdowns or perceived breakdowns in authority. Thought I would write my way into at least a partial opinion or observation around this.

First I understand that the “boomer generation” which is a large part of the structure of the city I live in, felt abused by those in authority. They felt dupped and not blessed; and I recognize this left them feeling unvalidated and unaffirmed. So that in much of what has been planted over the past twenty years you have an implied “screw the man” mentality–even while becoming “the man”. This has translated into scores of films on hidden conspiracies in government and education, and to much focus on the aspects of leadership which appears or in fact has been corrupt. Some of the critique of culture coming from the boomer generation has indeed been accurate and needed, but also some of it has been born within their collective, and largely unhealed wound with their own fathers. Now how this wound translates into my own generation, and what parts of it, we took in, and have grown our own version of is an interesting question.

Going back to this film, i was trying to figure out what its idea of the heroic was. Like what was this film holding up as an heroic image. Part of it seems to be the image of someone who figured out the corruptions within the system, and stayed true to his personal sense of justice and right. I found that interesting in terms of seeds. For it seems that my own generation similarly values personal creed as being the only trustworthy ideal, but I’m not sure it still holds onto the remnants of justice and doing the right thing. It seems to me that the previous generation still wanted there to be justice and righteousness to put it in more biblical terms; but they had lost trust that the government or anyone in authority, including and perhaps especially in the church, was or is trustworthy. So we are left with something like this: to be heroic, is to find what seems right to you, don’t trust anyone in authority, and follow your own code. Now that is something my generation understands, but has expanded, as i said to all of reality. We might add, don’t trust the sun to come up tommorrow, cause everything is unreliable, and the only possible truth is personal. And what is “noble”-if we would even use that word-is to stay true to your own code. This, of course, in the end is very solipsistic–which I think is the inevitable outcome of throwing out all trust in authority. If there can be no parental authority whatsoever, then the child must find something within themselves to be the lodestar or guiding principle.

However, are we as a generation as cycnical or distrustful of all authority as the previous generation. I’m not so sure. We were less “hurt” by the fathers, and more simply didn’t have fathers. When you don’t have a father, you secretly yearn for one, you don’t hate them. And that may be a key difference between our generations.

Recently I have tried to befriend in my heart, some people from the “boomer” generation to feel with them what their hurt is, and to figure out why so many feel still so unvalidated, and a thrust to proove their own potency in the world. I have noticed over the years, that this need to proove our ability to make a mark on the world is less pronounced in my own generation than the previous one. As I have tried to grow closer to “boomer” friends, I have noticed, that they actually carry so much that my own generation needs, but the frame or package has such hostility towards “the fathers” that it is often hard to crack it open and get the “goods” so to speak. An example would be trying to learn a skill from them. If, say, you want to learn to garden from a boomer, first you have to sit through a lot of somewhat cynical philosophy about how poorly the previous generation took care of the earth. While true, it is often presented with such implied hostility that it is hard to swallow even the critique, much less find the truths embedded within it. I think this makes it hard to learn from. So then often, my own generation which is quite clever and can learn many systems at once, will just by pass the knowledge, and go on line, and ingest it for themselves. While, giving us the information, it does not impart the wisdom to know how to plant grow it.

Or, we will go to our grandfathers who knew how to garden less as a leisure activity and more as a way of life. And we find more holism there, but again, the world was indeed so different at that stage, that many things we need to grow things now, are not present. For instance, all my grandparents were farmers. They lived at the end of the agricultural south. At the birth of mills, factories-in short, industrialism-of the south. Well, they had, and the ones still alive, still have, the knowledge of the earth etc that we desire, but the package was culturally so different that we have to become translators to uncapsulate it. Now, I think our generation are translators, and actually have the gift of naming the other generations, and telling them who they are, and how they fit together; but it is still difficult for me to transplant what my grandfather knew about planting tobacco into the post-modern setting I find myself in. For one, it is no longer possible for me to farm one hundred acres partly for profit, partly for family need–though perhaps, it should be!

If we look at generations as “generations of God’s purposes on earth”, then we have to say that these three generations have unique purposes that should fit together to form a pattern. If I say a spiritual “season” is three of these generations, we should be able to name what this season on earth is all about, and see our part within it! So what season are we in. What has been God’s purpose for the past three generations and how do they fit together. This is a big question, but one worth at least skirting the edges of. Starting with the “boomer generation”–what was their purpose? Why so many of them? Where did this purpose get thwarted, and how is it being redeemed?

Well, I would say that the purpose of the boomer generation was to evangelize. I know that may sound too religious for some, but let me explain. They were meant to convert energy–the solid, well held energy that the previous generation had stewarded, and to carry it out to the nation and other nations. They were to download the winds of heaven into the solid frame that was given to them, and expand that frame creatively. They were not to just create in reaction to the previous generation, but to expand what had been put into place, and bring wind and creative life into it. Instead, we see that it got hurt by the distance of the previous generations fathers (among other things), and, from an unaffirmed place, tried to build structures in reaction to it–sort of “look dad, at what I made–how creative and colorful and unlike what you made.” That late adolescent attitude still pervades many of the companies created from the boomer generation–what the phychologist might call a “reaction formation” stage of development. “Individuation” would be less this identity formed in pushing away from parent, and more, the actual expression of the intrinsic idenity of that person or group. We see this rarely, even at this stage in the boomer generation. There is, as i said, always this need for validation, or this “look dad, I did it cooler”. And there is still this constant tearing down of the father–hence, the endless, corruption in government and church articles on the front page.Or within the church circles, the tearing down of how the previous generation “did church”!

So we might say, the purpose could be named, creative reframer and expander; and the wound created instead, “reactor/ deconstructor”. By deconstructor I mean to tear down what the previous generation built in anger at having not gotten its blessing to expand. Now comes my own generation. We picked this up, and took it out into deconstructing all of reality. If the fathers are hopeless, and there can be no reliable authority to look to, then we will create our own reality–the obvious shadow of which is solipsism-a completely self contained universe–gaming, web-based reality, a virtual life with no rules outside of itself. Now, if, and i believe we are, my generation is a watershed generation at the apex of a turning-at an axial moment in generations and seasons; if we are to be one who names and teaches the generations to themselves so as to discern God’s pattern or purposes, if so, then my own generation has gone even deeper into the rabit hole of self than the boomers. For we no longer even react to things ourside ourselves, we have gone into the complexity of naming the labyrinth of our own imaginary worlds which we ourselvs create.

My own generation is meant to be a prophetic generation in this sense–we are to help name from above, tell things who they are, and how they are to work together. We are not necessarily great builders, but have inherited much of the creativity of the previous generation. But in addition, we have an awareness which can see outside of all the systems-even the ones we are in, and name from that awareness. This is definitely a teachers gift. I would call my own generation “prophetic teacher”. Now it seems obvious to me, what our “fall” was–we turned our great naming gift in on ourselves, and have only been able to constantly name the already deconstructed floating blocks of reality left from the previous generations dismantling of our grandfather’s generation’s work. We have become namers of debris, and will remain so, if we do not have our vision contextualized by something higher, something more spiritual–ie by God and His Kingdom. When those of my own generation enter the reality of the kingdom, we then have a purpose for our naming gifts, and can be useful on the earth again. You see this in the case of Bono, or the few others, from my generation who have found a larger context for their giftings.They are able to name things accurately, and in a helpful way, while remaining somewhat “outside” the systems which they are naming. There is this ironic emersion as Bono calls it, in life. This ironic awareness, was not just given for us to be endlessly clever in our advertizing or mags, but to actually offer to the other generations as larger naming of the context they are in, and help people know their place. This is the one of the roles of the prophetic in the culture at large. And a few who have gone through the Christ-centered transformation necessary to know one’s own identity, are starting to stand into this role. And many are not.

I recently went to a viewing hosted by Quentin Tarentino and another teacher from my generation, and again was shocked by the endless naming without any interpretation or contextualization. This is not to say that these two film makers are not brilliant and clever and really new in many ways–but they were unable to get “outside” the naming of the debris, and really speak truth and contextualize things in a way which could teach–in short, they were unable to offer the gift they carried to others. And, maybey worse, to have the humility to see that it was indeed a gift. So I think one of my generations troubles is that we don’t know why we have this gift of awareness and the ability to understand the symbolic level of things.

The restoration of the symbolic is another topic, but one which I think my generation should be heralding! We are in fact the beginning of this restoration in many ways. When the symbolic realm is once again connected to the earth, we will see on many new levels, what God is trying to teach about Himself through life. This is the true role of all artist–to help us learn to understand the symbolic and to discern that realm of dream, vision, and ritual. But, this is another topic for another essay. Here, just to mention that this is one of our roles in the story as a generation.

My parent’s generation, which I have only hinted at, had the role of building and holding solid structures, which could provide resources for the aquadic generations to come. There characteristics were meant to be steadfastness and faithfulness and value holders. As you see, they fell short as all other generations have, and many started putting their personal security in these structures which they created–this creating a new form of idolatry. Still, the solidity of the infrastructures built were meant to allow freedom of form for the two following generation to flow within.

In closing, I want to suggest that there is a connection between the past three generations, and that part of my job as a member of the last one, is to name this connection. This is just a rant, but we will be writing more on this topic in the not to distant future to explore it with more balance and gusto. I think it is helpful when you go to movies to ask which generational perspective it contains. And then place it in a larger pattern. To get the story of the generations will take patience and probably some healing on all our parts, but is worth it to get at the true story of our times!