Preparing an upcoming lecture provided the opportunity for musings about many young adults — a morphing subject, rapidly changing, more diverse, varied life experiences and visions for the future, and little shared reality, surrounded by collapsing families, communities, churches, schools, changing social norms, wobbling moral compass and fragmentary worldview. Pointing one finger at others leaves four pointing to a large number of the rest of us, our community, our country, and the world we inhabit. A lamentation!
Morphing happens before our eyes observing new ethnicities, friends assuming stereotyped identities shaped by pressure groups, new division and warring parties, splits in families, congregations, denominations and our community. It seems that everyone stressed different life experiences, while ignoring the commonality of a shared humanity. Competing, fragmentary and false assertions dominate media and communications. Norms of morality and good behavior crumble, leaving individuals with little guidance. Our social infrastructures and mediating institutions exhibit signs of disrepair and dangerous erosion. Lamentation, indeed!
Nevertheless, hope is the other side of the coin of lamentation. Any true lamentation retains within it a glimmer of hope — things can and should be better. Otherwise, why lament? Many who lament are also serious seekers, longing for some stability and a path toward a better future. All humans are created with volition and the ability to reason and decide how to act. Therefore, our better human nature leads us to search for a coherent worldview that is reasonably based on affirmations of what is true to believe. We desperately need some understanding of basic morality and norms of action in order to decide what is good to do. Attaining those two goals of worldview and moral compass will lead each of us toward a more abundant life and guide us in cooperation to create more harmony and flourishing in our communities. That is a glimmer of hope.
The heartfelt plea is that we all work together to let that light shine through any lamentation and get brighter. Pay attention to those teachers, preachers, writers, politicians and officials who base actions on reasonable affirmations of truth and not on propaganda shaped to serve temporary self-interest. Let those be silent who have put themselves forward as leaders while retreating into isolated silos of prejudice, anger, hatred and division. Beware of ignorant and/or incompetent opinion leaders who are good at persuading confused people, but not in leading anyone to a more abundant life.
All of us must assume responsibility for ourselves and for our own attitudes and actions. Study to show yourself wise in having some reasonable affirmations about what is true to believe and good to do. Hold tightly onto that glimmer of hope and keep it alive because light always leads to light and not to gloom and destruction.
Raymond B. Williams, Crawfordsville, LaFollette Distinguished Professor in the Humanities emeritus, contributed this guest column.
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