So much of our popular culture tries to project an 'aura of fun'. Everyone is trying so hard to seem like they're always having fun. But are we really all having as much fun as we'd like people to think?
The never-ending party
You know the scenario: a large group of young people gathers, there's lots of booze, maybe drugs too. Many seem to have adopted the mission statement - 'party till you drop'. You ask, was it a great party? "Was it great? It was so great I can't remember any of it!"
Then there's any number of TV shows: a group of middle-aged 'comedians' spends the whole time making juvenile jokes and giggling over sexual innuendos. No one wants to grow up, but somehow they retain their mantle of 'cool' and it doesn't occur to anyone to tell them to 'act their age'. What are they, 'honorary youth'?
Then there are the TV sitcoms: people treat sex as something casual and 'fun' but somehow they don't seem to get damaged by it. They feel a bit down for a while but then they bounce back all ready to party again. Actions and consequences have been de-coupled (is that a pun?) and fictional characters are like cartoon characters. It doesn't matter how many times they get hit over the head with a big hammer they just shake it off and get on with the action.
Does any of this ring a bell? Or is it all too normal to warrant any notice, or comment?
The resilience and attractiveness of youthfulness 'covers over a lot of sins'. For a while it seems like the party could go on forever. But backstage there is nowhere near as much fun going on. The facade is a lie hiding the facts of abusiveness, bad sex, loneliness, pain and despair.
You can't de-couple actions from consequences. If you keep getting hit over the head with a big hammer you're going to get brain damage. There endeth the fun.
Who wants to be a killjoy in paradise?
Why have I started with a bit of a rant about our culture? One of the key themes here is the need for what could be called Quality Socialising. If all, or even most, of the socialising that was going on was of a high quality - decent, respectful and inclusive, while also being enjoyable, creative and satisfying, no one would have to coin terms like 'quality socialising'. You don't need a name for something so common that everyone takes it for granted.
That's why we hear so much talk about 'community' these days. Because community has become greatly diminished. Once we see something we value slipping away we start to talk about it. Whatever happened to trust and community, we ask? Once you never had to lock your doors, we say. People looked out for their neighbours, we nod. Now we have to lock our doors, and we need to set up organisations to look out for our neighbours. What happened?
It's like that with our culture of celebration. There has been a loss of culture, a dumbing down, a coarsening, and a loss of the personal. Young people have been greatly affected by this, as has the world of relations between the sexes generally.
Now, although it might be ideal if the quality of social life would just 'look after itself', the fact is that in the present circumstances it won't. That is why we need intentional efforts to build community and culture. We need to work purposefully to build a high quality of socialising, of dating and of relationships.
When the 'aura of fun' starts to fade
There is increasing evidence of great emotional turmoil, unhappiness and disorder in the lives of young people. This didn't just come from a vacuum. On second thoughts, maybe it did. The vacuum that sucked the fidelity and permanence out of marriage and left children to carry the emotional baggage, as they traipsed from happy childhood to somewhere that didn't feel like home anymore. The vacuum that sucked the restraint and modesty out of entertainment and let in crudeness and militant entitlement. The vacuum that gave men license to be sexually unrestrained and tried to take from women the right to say 'no'.
The aura of fun is starting to fade, and the natural brightness of youth is being clouded over by shadows of emptiness and superficiality. The sparkle of excitement and anticipation in the relations between the sexes is dimmed as hopes fade.
For many this might be overstating it. There will always be those who can manage, by reason of good luck, good upbringing or some special strength inside themselves. But there are many others who are not managing. Many who are hurting and lost. And there are some for whom what I've said would be an understatement. There are many who have - quite literally - not survived the 'battle of the sexes'.
A New Dawn
I was going to try and use the dawn as a metaphor for the possibility of something better. You know the kind of thing, when you've been through a time of darkness you look forward to the new dawn. As metaphors go, an oldie, but a goodie. But then I realised that what I am advocating is something more like getting a team together to go and wake the sun up and push it up into the sky. It's easy to lose track of metaphors once you get your momentum up! Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is this: these things won't look after themselves (unlike the sun, which I'm pretty sure will come up all by itself tomorrow morning!)
But seriously, it's time to bring new light, and a new hope into the world of young people. Those who already have much are called to give much. Those who are confident and strong need to put themselves aside a bit and go and invite the less confident and strong to the party.
And strangely enough, if we focus on the things that really matter the aura of fun will come back by itself, and it won't just be a facade.