Things don't seem to be as easy
As they used to be
It's getting harder every day
To think of better things to say
About what's going on around you
And what's happening inside you
When it's time to change you won't know how
It won't matter years from now
No matter what you think or do or say
Everything turns grey
This is it, the darkest hour
Isn't it depressing how our
Minds create an atmosphere
That won't happen here
Unless we make some new demands
To grasp the future in our hands
You know I wish I could but it's too late
For senseless minds that love to hate
No matter what they think or do or say
Everything turns grey
agent orange - "everything turns grey"
This is a song I’ve always enjoyed. I rediscovered it recently and remembered just how much I love this song. I was impressed by this lyric, especially such a lyric coming from a punk band in the early-80s. One is struck immediately by the cynicism of his words as he tells of a world that is falling into a state of confusion where everything is turning grey each moment and nothing seems to matter. The second verse leads you into a possible solution, but no ‘it is too late’, he says, ‘for senseless minds that love to hate’; and once again everything turns grey. These are scathing words aimed at the indifference and busyness of the present age. The lyric proclaims a lamentation of the way things stand, and laments further that the problem can be fixed if only it wasn’t already too late.
Is it too late? This is the question, isn’t it? Welcome to the present age. The immense cacophony of noise that floods through the media per second is absolutely overwhelming; every advertisement, every form of media is aimed at you: not the you that you are, but the you they have created for you to be; everything is directed at you, telling you who to be and who not to be; yet, there is no standard or cohesion among the mass and so every voice is a contradiction demanding something of you – this is the present age. Where are the individuals? I see only the masses. One is encouraged not to be who they are in truth, but to be their other self, their public self. The noise directed at you is there to help you construct your mask and costume; the media will even be so nice as to tell you what does not work as well as what does – even tell you when you have gone out of style and must put on the new costume. So seductive they are! No one is free of their clutches: no one.
I’m sitting here critiquing them, but am I not a product of my age? Have I not been raised in the post-modern tradition of science over belief, of speculation over choice? Am I not wearing the clothing they have chosen for me? Yes, call me a hypocrite if you will – I will not deny it. Yet, more and more I feel as though I am being awakened. Christianity is perfect for this awakening; it is designed specifically for that purpose. In Christianity, only there can you be who you really are. The mask is ripped from your face as you are thrown and humbled before God, in full consciousness of your sin and guilt before Him. Yes, here is your safe haven – if only you could escape there. But you cannot do that because you are forced to live in the world; you are forced to live in the midst of the noise and confusion and still attempt to live the Christian life. Who has the strength for this? the courage? Yet, this is the task.
The 20th century has left us in an awkward position, philosophically speaking. With the immortal proclamation that ‘God is dead’ at the turn of the century, it sent us all scrambling for meaning. Post-modernity brought us face-to-face with the absurd, in the negative sense, and we cowered in fear before it. We saw the horrors that man is capable of and we failed in all attempts to govern ourselves and our lives. So either one lived in defiance towards the absurd (Camus, Sartre, etc) or one withdrew completely (Beckett, etc). So here we are now. We have inherited this tradition of meaningless and unfortunately it has become so deeply rooted in ourselves and in what we hear that we are ever skeptical of that which proposes to give life an eternal meaning. Yes, we great scientists have speculated and doubted ourselves into oblivion and now we live in fear of commitment to anything, especially if the commitment is to one thing. No, we are much too busy to commit to only one thing; we have so many options available, why choose only one when you can have all? This is the mentality. The noise comes from everywhere, it is inescapable. With such a wealth of information it’s any wonder there is boredom or apathy in the world, for surely one could never be bored when so many options are available. Yet, this is not the case. This is because every part of our lives is filled with empty nothingness, and this is what we cannot escape. All of that noise is meaninglessness. Everything has become so meaningful, so equally important that nothing is important and all has become meaningless. Is it any wonder why so many are depressed, why we have to medicate all our teenagers for their endless number of problems? The mid-life crisis have become a common staple especially in our present age. People are finding out all too late that their lives have been devoid of meaning for so long, and now they set out to correct their mistakes in attempt to re-live those moments they wasted in indecisiveness and disconsolation – yet, if only it wasn’t too late. Everything has turned grey.
So what is the role of the Christian in all of this? Where are we even to begin? I hesitate to find a safe-footing to make that first step; yet, this is the task. We are to be lights in a world of darkness, unstained by the world, to love your neighbor as yourself without distinction and even in their sin – and ‘blessed is he who is not offended by Me.’ Because this is your reward, isn’t it? You defiantly reject their materialism and noise for mild comfort and silence. Your non-conformity is received as offense. Christianity looks at the individual, you in particular and rejects the mass; for God only has interest in you. It is for you not them that Christ came to save you. You are not a Christian through the mass, you are a Christian through your own personal relation to God and through no one else. The best anyone else can do for your salvation is guide you, because the choice is yours alone – either to have faith or to be offended; either to love God or to hate Him (for there is no going in-between in these matters). With this choice, you are rejecting the many for the singular, for “one cannot serve two masters”, only the one who has created you. This singularity of choice, the world does not accept. This is not how the public thinks, for if this was how they thought, the public would not exist since the public is concerned with the many. Christianity demands authenticity from you: this is only achieved through God’s grace. To be authentic is to separate yourself from the rest of the world; to quit banging your head against the wall of the present age where everything is meaningless; to be yourself, your eternal self before God in total guilt-consciousness of one’s sin. Though everything may be ‘turning grey’ around you, you have the Father of Lights on your side who will not change due to any shadow or variation. This is the Christian’s hope in life. The Christian can and must live in the world because we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves and it is only through this love that we can be saved from the noise around us and be in that eternal peace and silence of being before God. Only in love, that is living as a Christian in the world (for as a Christian we shall love the neighbor as ourselves), are we free from the slavery of the world; only then are we our true selves and no longer the mask or the costume.