Tradition unites generations

They wanted a better life for their kids: all generations do, but they witnessed so much change and upheaval

Greatest generation: lived and grew up through the Great Depression, and both world wars. They were the last generation where most people lived generally the way their ancestors basically always had, farming with animal powered tools. They went from that to electrified countryside, more people living and working in the city than the country. They had to literally grow and store a lot of their own food, make and fix a lot of their own things, just to survive, and they did. They learned how and they did. Post second world war, massive encounter and first wide scale integration with different cultures and races for many of them: they worked with and became familiar with people, customs, and places they never dreamed of. Women entered the workforce in emergency, and then stayed in unprecedented numbers among unprecedented technology. Advertising wasn’t’ exactly invented, but it leaped forward in such a huge way, it almost might have been, fresh off a war full of propaganda and plunging into the long, terrifying Cold War with even more. Various sciences, especially psychology and psychiatry gained massive influence and made powerful strides, including mistakes along the way. These made and sold every device, comestible, and medicine imaginable, the military industrial complex of WWII and the New Deal programs before it needing to justify their continued existence. Work and money was bent overwhelmingly into building up production infrastructure and suburbs on the outskirts.

Into this heady world were born the generation sharing the name of the time, the Boomers. The Boomers didn’t know it, many may still be unaware, but they inherited the pinnacle of American influence and prestige, no one had ever started with more wealth and cheaper prices and good will in general. The freedom from cares and abundance of possibilities, yet within the shadow of the scars and aftermath of WWII and the spectre of nuclear war, made many of the boomers bold and self confident, creative and even rebellious. Many disparaging things are said about the boomers these days, but in general, regardless of any amount of rebellion, it cannot be forgotten that every generation not only inherits but largely continues the trends they were born into. The urbanization, consumerism, pragmatism, feminism, and other movements continued moving. Not only that, but at the academic level, not only was modernism continuing its takeover largely unabated, more students than ever flocked to their halls to imbibe it. Television was invented as well as commercial air travel, and the world quickly became smaller. The same rockets that threatened to deliver the end of the world, delivered Man to the Moon. it seemed to many, especially this young generation, that anything was possible, or at least soon would be.

Rightfully or not, the boomers are cast as preoccupied with themselves and their times, while their children, Generation X are commonly called the forgotten generation. As seen so well at the end of Forrest Gump, not everyone, not even the majority of the boomers was hippie or into drugs, though their influence was outsized beyond all reason, yet all but the wildest or weakest hippies grew up eventually, if they survived the 70s at all. The creativity of the 60s also fostered chaos and destruction on a scale never seen before or since, though social media is giving it a run for its money. Centuries old empires decayed and collapsed. Civil wars and unending conflicts not coherent enough to grace with the title war blazed across the 3rd world, while the 1st and 2nd worlds continued to jockey for influence in the region. All the time, corporations grew their influence, intluding onto the political stage. Where before, work enslaved workers, then unions and policy tamed work (or revolution broke everything, in other places of the world) such that work served society, namely, the family, now work divided families, increasingly pulling both parents away from home for the day, and the evening, and the night, even if debts weren’t high, but they often were, new things are expensive. No fault divorce became a thing and catalyzed all of this, because for a time, consumerism was fission powered. (nowadays, we are feeling the burnout due to our spent fuel. The radiation left behind by exploded families is not productive, kids, when people have any, are often isolated, as is everyone else: atomized). Gen X grew up more on their own than others, out to play for the day as boomers were, but with less of a structure to return to, even as transportation and general lack of ties increased apace with the increase of costs and demands.

Thus, at the dawn of the digital revolution, at the end of the 2nd half of Christianity thus far as well as the end of christendom, the millennials began to be born. Personal computers were still new for many/most in their day but they all remember the beginning of the internet. The environment greatly cleaned, the cold war grown dusty and the soviet union collapsed, the first big crisis they probably remember is the Y2K scare, which most were merely wary of and about which we all laugh about now if we think about it at all. The millennials rode a rising wave borne on the swell of this new dimension, and seemed primed to become almost a second round of boomers, not least because they stand to inherit much of their grandparents remaining wealth. One of the longer lived trends in their speech was the word “impactful.” Like the boomers, they want in their youth to make a difference, a positive one, in the world; to right wrongs. One trouble, however, springs from this; like the boomers, many of them went to college, record numbers of them. Unlike them, the intellectual diseases there had metastasized and spread as postmodernism; in our rush to declare victory in the cold war, we suffered many losses by ironically imbibing the same philosophy of our opponents in the prior wars, becoming increasingly like them. By this point much that was traditional, age old wisdom that had been hard won and survived by its merits to become common sense had been discarded, demolished, and forgotten and continues to be ridiculed in the mainstream, even as its howling grows more vacuous and untrusted by the day. Yet, the watchword of many millennials is “solid.” though impactful fell out of fashion, and even authentic and genuine failed to stick, solid is heard consistently in some circles. This is largely because as the first generation to grow up with the internet, as well as a skeptical yet idealistic attitude, they are easily able to use the fully realized power of the search engine at a time when the hard, but often hidden or stunted work of catechesis, and increasingly, evangelization, has not only pulled the thread of Tradition through time, but has incorporated it into the web, imbuing it with life. Whereas Mother Angelica was just starting EWTN, and Dr. Scott Hahn was just producing bible studies on tape, and Ignatius Press was just being founded and Kreeft and Kresta were still in their early writing, now we have virtually unlimited podcasts, videos, articles, apps, updates, and more. The completely customizable attitude born of individualism given an overwhelmingly powerful toolbox resulting in atomization of individuals has met its match: it’s met something that unites the more it scatters, the Church, entrusted with the Gospel message.

Gen Z, the Zoomers, are growing up fast in this hyperrated time. The oldest of them are just giving birth to Gen Alpha. They are the first digital natives, none of them grew up in a world without the internet, few if any can remember a time without social media and smartphones, so enamored and addicted with them are the previous generations. And yet, they are not such easy prey as might be feared. Even as many suffer the savagery of the virtual, faced with even less responsibility than the world in person, and in which, many spend a shocking amount of time, even a majority, some are conscious of the threats. While online pornography, gaming, and gossip decimates older generations and many of their peers, so much that tragedy becomes scandalously commonplace, some see the evils and simply give them up, like the kid who owned their first gaming consoles in the neighborhood was the first to become bored with it, even though it was all his friends wanted to play when they came over. These will be the future leaders. The mistakes that millennials and the old zoomers are activists for, and the elite boomers bankroll, will soon play out and be exposed, abortion, contraception, divorce (few have not grown up with it in their family or among their friends. It is so much that together with other threats, they barely have a grasp of the nature of family at all), careerism, individualism, tribalism, transgenderism, and all the while, in this crazy world where the mainstream tends toward dissolution and isolation, another stream trends toward the bedrock, which it uses as so many onramps to the fountainhead. God is still at work in the world, and no one can resist His will, which is to raise up and make saints of the willing. These will work and witness powerfully in the time when the Church sails through choppy seas, red with the blood of violence born of ignorance and blame. May we accept God’s grace to persevere in joy by staying close to Him as He sends us out to reach towards, sit with, and accompany the many lost, that we may help Him save many of them.

Tradition unites generation because it is something we all do in our present moment. It connects us by our humble obedience to it, and acceptance of it; we may each acknowledge it in a unique aspect, from a unique, personal perspective, formed by our generational origin and formation, but what, or rather, Who it is that we acknowledge is one and the same when we are united in prayer. That prayer, the Mass, is the source of countless individual expressions of devotion, which we may do much more often, and even in a way more passionately throughout the week: they may often make us feel more. And this is right as long as it is just, as long as the devotion isn’t merely cutting off our head to let our heart drive as it pleases, or cutting out our heart and growing cold, alone in an ivory tower, or any other maiming. Rather, devotion must spring from and live with the very sap of the vine it grows on, even if it blooms with a particular, special kind of blossom we find our favorite. The blossom is not produced by us because it is our favorite, it is enjoyed by us as our favorite, for it lives in a particular way that resonates with our particular, likewise God-given form. Vivified and exhilarated by our personal prayer, born of God’s personal encounter with us, making us the Body of Christ, we return with joy and the fruits of our prayer, that is, our labors of good works to the same source and offer the summit of our worship, our ongoing and uplifting thanksgiving. There is no better way that can be made by men from which to gain life or express it or ourselves. God has given us the way, and to the extent that we embrace and follow it, we will be not only full ourselves, but united together.