Friday, September 6, 2013

Buddha, Pascal and Lena Dunham Walk into a Bar...

Peter Augustine Lawler shines a light on our current culture as viewed through the prism of HBO's hit, Girls:
"We see time and again, for example, that there’s little more degrading than casual sex in the absence of love. When we’re shown an abortion clinic, or women contracting STDs, or a string of pathetic hookups, and whiny, brittle, pretend marriages, we see the stupidity and misery of an abysmally clueless life. The show’s bitter, intended irony is this: while these girls are so proudly pro-choice, they lack what it takes to choose well.

What’s wrong with these Girls (and their boys) is that they lack character. Their easygoing world of privilege has saved them from any experiences that might build it. Their affluent parents are hardly “role models,” and they’re too flaccid to give their kids the “tough love” they need.
He goes on to explain how our education system and the 'Girls' have failed one another:
We also see plenty of evidence that what these girls really want is meaningful work and personal love. But they have not the first clue on how to get them.

Their education has failed them—another piece of realism. Hannah majored in film studies [...]  She learned nothing that would help make a living, but she did glean enough vanity to make her unfit for the “entry-level” jobs for which she barely qualifies. She also fancies that she can earn a living as a writer. While her prose style is pleasing, she has nothing “real” to write about. She didn’t read with passionate care any “real” books in college. Her education taught nothing “real” about her responsibilities as a free and relational being." (The Secret Moral Message of "Girls")
A Tragic Sense of Life

Soren Kierkegaard reflects upon the birds of the air and the lilies of the field in his upbuilding discourses, which are all meditations upon Christ's teachings.  The lilies and the birds perfectly serve the purpose for which God created them.  So far as we know, they feel no longing for something else and they are blessedly unburdened by the cares of the day or the worries of tomorrow.

Not so us humans.  Miguel de Unamuno observes that life is tragic and consciousness is a disease.  The unhappiest are those who do not realize this, or worse, who try to fight it.

Viktor Frankl tells us that man's greates will is a will to meaning.  He famously said that if someone knows the 'why' of his existence, he can bear almost any 'how.'  How many millions of flickering souls swarm this pimple of time having no clue what their 'why' is?  It's tragic.
“All of man’s misfortune comes from one thing, which is not knowing how to sit quietly in a room”  -- Blaise Pascal
The ability to sit quietly in one's mind is a blessing, and it can keep one from a host of troubles.  Here is a Buddhist writer's take on it:
Ultimately, Pascal points out in that same passage in his Pensées, our desire for diversion is an avoidance of the sense of our own mortality. Our “weak and mortal condition” is a “natural misfortune” that afflicts us and renders us inconsolable. Our being, he points out, is contingent (we might never have been born had circumstances been different) and impermanent (it’s certain we will die). And thus there is a deep-seated fear of non-existence, to which the ego tries to blind itself by embracing diversion and removing any possibility for deeper reflection. ( - Buddhist Meditations)
 It's not Hollywood's fault.  Pop culture is holding up a mirror.

See also, Victor Davis Hanson's learned observations in American Satyricon

No comments: