From All Things New
What Are We Looking Forward To?
I keep checking my phone for email and texts.
I do it all through the day; every alert gets my attention. I’ve been doing it for some time now. And the funny thing is, I’m not the kind of person who likes technology; I don’t want to feel tied to my phone by an emotional umbilical cord. So what is this compulsion? What am I looking for? It’s as though I’m looking for something.
And I’m not alone. People check their devices something like 110 times a day – one-third of their waking hours. What is this obsession? I know we get a dopamine buzz when we receive a text, but something else is going on here. After months and months of this obsession, I think I’m beginning to understand – the thing I keep looking for is good news. I am hoping for, looking for, longing for good news. We need to know that good is coming to us. We need to feel confident that a bright future is going to be given us and never taken away – not by anyone or anything.
I mentioned the global rise of depression and suicide; similar increases are happening with anxiety and various addictions. Our search for happiness is getting desperate. Have you noticed all the hatred and rage? If you spend any time on social media you have. Perhaps you saw the fallout after the Cincinnati Zoo incident; it was hard not to. In May 2016, a three-year-old fell through the rails into the enclosure of a male gorilla at the zoo; the gorilla grabbed the boy and violently threw him around. The dangerous-animal response team shot the gorilla and saved the boy’s live. A social media Chernobyl followed – vicious, venomous backlash against the zoo and the boy’s parents. Hundreds of thousands of people called for the boy’s parents to be prosecuted. I understand strong emotion, but we are talking full-blown hatred here. And it doesn’t take much to provoke it.
Shortly after the zoo tragedy, the remake of the film Ghostbusters was released, with an all-female cast. I don’t even begin to understand the poisonous response. Leslie Jones, an African American actress starring in the film, was bombarded online with “a stream of pornography, racist speech, and hateful memes.” She was compared to the gorilla shot at the zoo; she received photos with human semen on her face. Over a movie?
Something is happening to the human heart. You need to understand what it is if you would make sense of any of this.
Human beings are by nature ravenous creatures; a famished craving haunts every one of us. We are created for utter happiness, joy, and life. But ever since we lost Eden, we have never known a day of total fullness; we are never filled in any lasting way. People are like cut flowers – we appear to be well, but we are severed from the vine. We are desperate, lustful creatures. We look to a marriage (or the hope of marriage), a child, our work, food, sex, alcohol, adventure, the next dinner out, the new car – anything to touch the ache inside us. We are ravenous beings.
And we have been untethered. Every institution that once provided psychological and moral stability is crumbling – families, communities, church allegiances. We don’t trust anyone or anything anymore; not our universities nor financial institutions, not religious hierarchies, and certainly not our political leaders. The breakdown adds a kind of unchecked desperation to our ravenous hunger.
Then the world stands in the way of our famished craving; it constantly thwarts us. People don’t treat us as we long to be treated; we can’t find the happiness we need. Our boss is harsh, so we sabotage him. Our spouse withholds sex, so we indulge online. The ravening won’t be stopped. But boy, oh boy – when somebody gets in the way of our desperate hunger, they feel the fury of our rage. We are ready to kill. People shoot each other over traffic incidents. Parents abuse a baby who keeps them up at night. We vengefully crucify one another in social media.
This is our current condition – ravenous, psychologically untethered, increasingly desperate, ready to harm anything that gets in our way. And there appears to be nothing to stop the slide into chaos. “The falcon cannot hear the falconer,” warned the poet W. B. Yeats in “The Second Coming”:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
Whatever else is at play here, we have clearly lost hope. We have no confident expectation that goodness is coming to us. When my friend said, “We could sure use some hope right now,” she may have prophesied the final word over the human race.