Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I regret yesterday's post. No, no, don't read it. It was really a downer, and I think I let the bad news and burdens get the better of me. I want to apologize specifically for putting that image in your head of the Little Einsteins shooting themselves in the chests. That kind of South Park humor has no place here, and I'm sorry. Suicide is not particularly funny to me anymore. It used to be. I changed.

And I want to clarify that I do think Van Gogh was brilliant, let there be no mistake about it. I think what was really getting to me was the irritating predilection that my generation (the so-called Generation X) has with depression. I admit having been public enemy #1 throughout most of the nineties, but I can see now how unhealthy it all is. No really. I may need to meditate on the idea some more, but this generation (and the art world in general) has a melancholy fetish. I have been in so many art galleries and to so many movies where the lost and forlorn are utterly glorified and I believe it does little or nothing to benefit our children, advance our society, or cure our ills.

Did you see Garden State? Good movie, right? Pretty entertaining. Lost in Translation is another good one. American Beauty. I could list more. Yes, they were professionally made, solid stories with more or less cohesive structures, cogent characterization, and a lens that kept in focus. But what did they say about marriage? Family? Commitment? That though they've been around for eons they are predominantly failed endeavors. Inherently flawed institutions. That if you ever find happiness there you're either lucky or crazy.

I happen to not agree with such notions, of course. Fine. If sociologists, scientists, and artists have an alternative to a satisfying healthy family life, I'd like to hear it. Meanwhile they offer up some sort of this-is-as-good-as-it-gets syndrome with a side of antidepressants. This melancholy fetish is everywhere and I found it tempting and encouraging as I softshoed my way to the edge of the abyss in my twenties, but from the vantage point of fatherhood in the suburbs I find it dangerous and sickening.

The thing is children have long been told life is hard (which it is) but we seem to be in an age where children are told life is miserable. Well, I imagine it is miserable if you were told it was going to be easy and then found out the opposite was true. Now, I don't think anyone actually raises their kids with "life is easy" as their mantra, but our culture does seem to sell it that way. This younger generation has actually been named the "Garden State Generation" which I find frightening. If you don't know what I'm referring to, you'll have to see the movie. It's a good movie. It's the movie I would have made at age 27, too. It's a nice flick. It also lacks the wisdom of the ages.

So there, I've done it again. And look, the sun is out and a solid day of work is unfolding, which I am thankful for. I've been reading Mark Steyn's America Alone so it's got me worried about future generations. The book goes into how western populations are on the decline because of a lack of family values. He could be wrong. But if he's right, there's a certain doom on the horizon -which I can't bear for the Little Ditchman. And the whole "It would be so selfish to bring a child into this awful world" mentality that I hear, sometimes as another mantra, is utterly contrary to our nature. So what of it? Well, we've got to make the world a better place. Sounds crazy, I know, but you can make the world of the person next to you a better place, and he can for the person next to him. From there it takes faith. Faith in a God who designed it all this way for a reason.

All right, I've said my piece. You can get on with your day, now. When someone gave me such advice ten years ago, I would laugh it off as utterly simple-minded and naive, but now I find it sincerely profound. Given the circumstances of the world, isn't happiness more profound than apathy, ennui, and nihilism? In this world, in this day and age, those things are expected, and most current intellectuals seem to indulge -writing off "happiness" as a sappy, fleeting, temporary mood, dependent on material pleasure, instead of the lasting, positive, and influential force that it is. I believe it should be pursued and I believe that the Founding Fathers were right to mention it in the constitution. They didn't just put it there for appearances.

Okay, now I've said my piece. But seriously, try and make someone's day today. Pick up your trash. Tell a simple joke. Make a small beautiful thing for the world around you to see. And try not to let it bug you when that jerk doesn't let you into his lane. It hurts no one to tell your wife you love her every day, but the hurt goes unhealed if you don't. Do what you can while you're thinking about it, because tomorrow you may have a day like this, followed by a day like this -and when that happens you're gonna really need all those people who happened to take my advice.