postmodern malaise

i've always been an indecisive person. at least i think so. i'm really not sure. (yes that's a joke, sort of). actually sometimes i wonder if i'm truly indecisive or if i just grew up with two older sisters so i got used to not really getting my way. when your suggestions for what you want never get picked eventually you just cope with the disappointment and decide that it's better not to have an opinion so as not to be disappointed. you baby's of the family out there know what i'm talking about. unless you were the type to throw a fit and get your way. in that case i'm not sure whether to congratulate your effectiveness or question the will-power of your older siblings. (that was a joke too--ah parentheticals, isn't this such a helpful post?)

being indecisive may lead to problems when it comes to picking where to go out to eat, what clothes to buy, what music to listen to at any given moment, etc. sometimes you can pass it off as being overly considerate of the other person's need, which actually is probably somewhat often the case.

but then there are the times when being indecisive gets you into real trouble--deciding what college to go to, who to marry, 2 kids or 3, what job to do, which is the salad fork? not having the right answer for those things can get you into some real trouble. how can we know what the right answer is?

you see part of the problem lies in this time of life i think. youth is wasted on the young they say, and this is something like that--only in between. when i was young i thought i was just like adults (probably because debate taught me how to out-argue them), but i wasn't. i certainly lacked a degree of consciousness. i had no real idea the impact of the decisions i was making, what they meant to my life, how they would effect the course of my life. i had a vague idea i guess, and people told me that was the case--but i didn't really feel the burden of it. i don't know that i could have.

but now i feel that burden. all the time. the major decisions of life stare me down. they face everyone, and how you decide means so much. i've always been averse to making the decisions out of practicality. a lot of people make that choice to do -fill in the blank- because they must. they must make money, have a job, move forward in life. they make the decision not because it's what they really want, but because it is there and they wouldn't mind it most likely. or people avoid this decision-making as long as they can, going to grad school simply because they don't know what to do yet, or taking some time "off" from "real" life--perhaps traveling or wandering in whatever way. but sooner or later the demands of the reality of life press in and you must make decisions--that is if you want to eat and not live in your parents' basement, or upper room (a more modern development actually with the growth of independence--more on this later*).

it's not just major life decisions. it's also normal important decisions, at your job or with people in life. to make a decision you have to cut yourself off from every other possibility that could have come before that decision was made. and so you lose that. you lose something you never would have had, but still somehow possessed in your mind as opportunity. and you have to make a choice, for not making a choice is a choice in itself--and is far worse of course. then you lose all opportunity. but why is the decision to one thing not enough? sometimes it is. but often it isn't. things will go badly at times, and i don't know how you can continue without looking back and asking the question, "did i make the right decision" somewhat frequently.

perhaps the problem, as one of my friends suggests, is *autonomy. there used to be a time when we didn't have to make those decisions. marriage was arranged. you did the job of your family. you didn't really move because there was no need to, and no real opportunity elsewhere. sure we treasure our freedom, but we also long for a much more simple life in some ways. statistics show that hatians, who living in an ancient simplicity making less than a thousand dollars a year, are actually generally happier than americans.

the 4th of july is approaching, and while we will celebrate our country and freedom and all that, i'm asking the question if maybe freedom is not good all the time in any form. because when it comes down to it, there is no way that at 24 i have the capacity to treat my freedom with the wisdom and responsibility it truly requires. when i was younger i could make decisions because i was ignorant. when i'm older, perhaps i'll have less consequence to my choices, but then perhaps i'll have a little more wisdom when facing them. but what about this time? two aspects for now:

1. we have put ourselves, the individual, in control. we think we always know what's best for ourselves. and what have we received? narcissism, depression, multifrenicism (always trying on different hats), shallow living (when we deny the problem and cope with any number of entertaining distractions), and the inability to trust ourselves.

2. we also sometimes put ourselves in charge of knowing what's best for others. simply put, this is called authority. when i see people who are willing to make those hard decisions (for themselves or for others), i think they are either ignorant or have great courage. and if the decision implies leading other people and narrowing their direction, i tend to find that audacious and have a difficult time doing that myself. even when you want the best for them and desire to lead them into a good place, you're still going to make mistakes--and now at the expense of others too. where does the authority come from? and unless you have this authority (can it be without audacity?) how can you make that decision?

i think this is something that we could call the postmodern malaise.

i have a deep sense and desire for spiritual direction in me. i think this might be something growing in people. i read a book about the modern despair: the moviegoer by walker percy. of course it was written in 1960, but a part of it in particular stretches into today i think. one of the characters came to the conclusion that she just needed religion, but not of the sort we know. we are much too particular to be led by a church, we can maybe find the one that is good enough to go to--but to submit to it and really let it lead us. never. no, she chooses a man as the object of her religion. she tells him that the only way she will make it is if he always tells her exactly what to do, then she won't be afraid to do it. not because she trusts him as some great man of wisdom or faith, but because he is "not religious." she says of him, "you are the unmoved mover. you don't need God or anyone else--no credit to you, unless it is a credit to be the most self-centered person alive. i don't know whether i love you, but i believe in you and i will do what you tell me." he's unmoved because he is extremely passive. he has no care or passion or want for anything in life. that's one way to avoid fear--want nothing. of course she would do what God would tell her to do. but when she talks about that option she just leaves it there, almost as if it is just quite fanciful or simply impossible.

i have a propensity of mysticism in me for sure. and i've always desired the sort of relationship made up of constant communication with God. i want to do what he wants me to do. of course i don't always go to God with every decision and i don't have that relationship--though i'm striving towards it hopefully. and yet at times it seems like lots of decisions are left up to us, even when we ask for God's direction. probably a good thing, since we would blame him for it when things went not exactly as well as we would wish them or expect. i don't quite fully understand this though... so it is better to not have direction? when sometimes there is no one right direction? how do you choose then? my conclusion of the best option available is dreadfully insufficient.

i think this is as far as i can take these thoughts now. sure it's quite a long entry i know, but it's not like i've come to any real conclusions here. except that i really want a spiritual director. a wise old mystic. are you out there? oh but i already knew i wanted that. i'll sit with these thoughts and maybe write more later. and i would love your impressions and thoughts.


  1. Sometimes I think my posts are too long. Then I read your page, and we are about equal. Yours may be more intersting, but that is niether here nor there. So I sleep better at night.

    P.S. I am very much with you on your thoughts here.

  2. I am glad you wrote this out brother...

    I enjoyed our conversation... and now I can return to it as often as need be.

    Linder: "...wright, Wright, WRIGHT!"