These are the facts of life. First, we must have air to breath, or we die. We must have water or we die. We must have food, or we perish.
These are facts. They cannot be wished away, willed away, nor ignored. For without any of the three, we die.
They are, one might say, absolutes. These absolutes are not argued about, they are not debated, they are not ignored. Indeed, we spend the greatest part of our daily energy seeing to it that these needs are met.
We live with another set of absolutes. We are but created beings, and in the absence of God revealed, the history of mankind is filled with "invented" gods.
Every culture has developed some entity that is powerful, revered, worshiped, feared and served. Because without the breath of God, we cannot exist. Without the water of life, our hearts grow cold. Without the bread of life, our spirits hunger, then wither, then die. These are absolutes. They cannot be wished away, willed away, nor ignored.
However, we do deny them. We argue them away, we rationalize them, we dispute their very existence. And in so doing, we perish.
That is to say that which is in us that is good, that which seeks justice and loves mercy, that which is in us that loves, perishes.
It seems to be the fashion nowadays to "live and let live." This has been a progressive metamorphosis in our society, with roots dating back decades in the history of the United States.
The "free love" generation of the mid to late '60s really got the ball rolling with their "anti-establishmentarianism" movement, which sprang from the indignation and active opposition to the war in Vietnam. Their rejection of conformity spanned the length of their experience, affecting dress, personal hygiene, drug experimentation, and of course, free love.
It appeared that particular generation did it all, no matter who was hurt, no matter what anyone else's opinion was. Perhaps that generation was the one to most strongly exercise their right of free speech since the founding fathers.
Much as a pendulum swings, the generation that came to the forefront in the late '70s and early '80s was much more self absorbed. No longer were there demonstrations in the streets. The sexual shackles were shed in the '60s.
The racial shackles were shed in the fifties, and the assumption that every American family would send at least one son to serve their country in uniform was all but abandoned with the abolishment of the draft. What was there left to fight for in the eighties? And so, the Me Generation came into being. And a high time was had by all.
If you could afford the interest rates, that is. Inflation was at its zenith and recession brought many to their collective knees in the unemployment lines at the close of that self-absorbed decade.
Now, as the decade of the nineties passes, what is the verdict on the condition of the soul of America? Anything seems possible to this generation. With computer microchips, organ transplants commonplace, life expectancy increasing with each new medical miracle and the freedom of choice in all matters, indeed, everything seems possible.
We routinely send men into space, engaging in space construction projects and ever expanding explorations of the solar system and the universe around us. We have the agricultural know-how, the technological capability, and the natural resources to adequately feed, clothe and shelter every man, woman and child on planet Earth.
We travel distances that once took weeks if not months in a matter of hours or days. Images are relayed in "real time" around the globe. Pick up the phone, or go online, and whatever your heart's desire is, it is within easy reach.
So, what's wrong with the picture? This should be mankind's finest hour. This should be the generation of hope fulfilled and anticipation unbridled.
But, what is our reality? In reality, we have children walking into their schools with automatic weapons and bombs, wreaking havoc and destroying lives, just because they can.
We have precious lives taken too soon by an insidious disease all too often contracted in dangerous liaisons with other people or needles. We have courtrooms bogged down with abuse cases and civil litigations, mental health centers battling addictions that run the gamut from food to heroin. We have babies born addicted to crack cocaine, and babies never birthed. We have Jack Kevorkian offering the only permanent solution to the pain of this life, and the implied threat of euthanasia spreading far beyond one's personal choice.
We have taken tolerance to the point where having any conservative opinion and daring to speak it aloud can draw you into a court of law faster than pulling a gun at the local bank teller's window. Never has freedom of speech been so loudly touted and so routinely squashed.
We have anonymously committed infanticide by legalizing abortion, calling it choice.
We have plea bargained our court system, once the fairest and most just, to the point where you can indeed "get away with murder." We have rationalized every conceivable crime and criminal. We no longer expect personal accountability, but rather seek to discover and to rationalize why some of us work hard everyday, pay our taxes, raise our children, respect the flag, honor God, while others lie, cheat, steal, murder and take it on the dole. If we could only understand why, we reason, we could fix it.
How has this happened? In less than 50 years, we have gone from being a productive, generous, compassionate nation, where behaviors such as homosexuality, murder, abortion, lying, cheating and stealing, were recognized as wrong and perpetrators of such things were compelled to make different choices or live elsewhere, be it in a prison or in a closet. We have become a nation where the most shameful thing you can do in public is light a cigarette.
For that we receive untold ridicule, while other behaviors, much more destructive, both to self and society, are accepted and even lauded in the name of tolerance.
It is indeed a testimony to our loss of absolutes. The collective agreement, active in some, tacit in others, to abandon personal accountability. The collective consensus seems to be that there is no God and therefore there is no eternal accountability. The collective reasoning states if I say it is not wrong in this case, then that will make it right in my case.
We need our absolutes. We need to know and understand our human limitations. That which is damaging to the soul of one is damaging to the soul of others.
Take the most commonly named examples of absolutes, the Ten Commandments - the Law, written in love. We need to return to a time when our consciousness, individually and collectively, sensed that time of accountability, knew when we had crossed an invisible line and longed for a way back.
"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 11:18, 19
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him together.
Originally published March 1, 2000 in the McCook Daily Gazette