Over on Sarah Hoyt’s blog, Cedar Sanderson writes about the modern insistence on a flat emotional world: how we are not allowed to contemplate or even acknowledge that one might, in her example, be happy and sad at the same time. As a dad with 3 kids away at college, and whose oldest daughter is graduating, I’m happy and sad all the time. It is not only possible to have more than one emotion at a time, it may very well be the norm for adults.
This flattening of the emotional world is, I think, of a piece with the modern cool kids insistence on a morally flat universe, as discussed here. My comment on Sanderson’s piece:
Understanding complexity requires thought – and goodness knows where that might lead! Just as dating teenagers are advised not to get on the train unless they are going to Minneapolis, the Cool Kids in our colleges learn not to even start in with that thinking stuff. Slaves are all always sad – it’s much easier that way. Recognizing any complexity is just giving in to the Man, or something.
The same ‘thinking’ applies elsewhere, too. Morally, bad people are always bad, good people are always good. (That’s why the idea that rank and file Nazis were no worse than we are causes head to explode, or at least is certain to get anyone raising that point labeled a Nazi themselves lickity-split) Good people are victims; bad people are oppressing members of some hegemony or other. Thus, in our flat, flat, flat world, any happily married women, for example, are repressed no matter what they may tell you, and their husbands are evil meanies no matter what they do in fact.
And on and on – pick your topic, and the modern world will steam-roller any bumps out of it and hand it back, ready for use to justify any evil in the name of fixing whatever binary problem the now-2-dimensional world presents.
Chesterton often described the Church as wobbling through history, balancing all sorts of conflicts and seeming contradictions in order to achieve a sort of reckless balance, and becoming thereby something beautiful. His was a tremendously complex and paradoxical life, mirroring, as it did, the complex and paradoxical world we live in. It is in loving and living in such a world that joy is to be found.