People are frightened of themselves. It’s like Freud saying that the best thing is to have no sensation at all, as if we’re supposed to live painlessly and unconsciously in the world. I have a much different view. The ancients are right: the dear old human experience is a singular, difficult, shadowed, brilliant experience that does not resolve into being comfortable in the world. The valley of the shadow is part of that, and you are depriving yourself if you do not experience what humankind has experienced, including doubt and sorrow. We experience pain and difficulty as failure instead of saying, I will pass through this, everyone I have ever admired has passed through this, music has come out of this, literature has come out of it. We should think of our humanity as a privilege.
The language we are really fluent in, the language we are most used to, deals with impersonal data and functionalized roles. The practice of prayer, if it is going to amount to anything more than wish lists and complaints, requires a recovery of personal, relational, revelational language in both our listening and our speaking.
In the middle of the nineteenth century August Comte asserted with utmost confidence that science, by then, he said, essentially complete, had discredited and supplanted religion. A few years later, perhaps in part because of Comte had readied the way for the interpretation of it, Darwin’s theory of evolution was also widely understood to have discredited and supplanted religion. So the “modern” image of science as the anti-theology was established before Abraham Lincoln took office. At that time the germ theory of disease was not established.
But I have thought, too, that the term of human judgment is longer than parenthood, that the upbringing we give our children is not just for their childhood but for all their lives. And it is sure the duty of the older generation to be embarrassingly old-fashioned, for the claims of the “newness” of any younger generation are mostly frivolous. The young are born to the human condition more than to their time, and they may face mainly the same trails and obligations as their elders have faced.