I recently heard an interview that caught my attention, in which the observation was made that we simply must be the most ungrateful and unhappy generation in the history of the world. Now, of course, that is a difficult assertion to prove, but it is even more difficult to disprove. It is not unusual, after all, to see someone miss breathtaking scenery in favor of a video game; to see someone out at dinner texting rather than talking to their spouse; to see people with ear buds in rather than engaging with the actual people around them.
We have all either seen or experienced the kind of meltdowns that can occur when the internet isn’t working, or the phones go out, or the power is knocked out by a storm; when the car breaks down or the computer simply won’t do what you want it to do! Ours is, indeed, a spoiled and short-tempered society.
Much of this is because we have given ourselves over to gadgets and television to the point that our attention spans rival that of the gnat which flits back and forth, hardly resting a moment. And, because we give so little time to contemplation, we are very short on gratitude. We fail to appreciate those things that should keep us in awe, were we paying attention. Our advances in technology, which truly are considerable and impressive, and our culture’s reliance upon the gods of Darwinism, have caused many to float through the world, thinking that nothing is impressive because we have it all figured out. So, we are short on gratitude.
But, we were not always that way. We have to be taught to stop wondering, trained to lose amazement, and lulled into boredom. Anyone who has seen a toddler watching his first snowfall or a child’s first trip to the beach knows that glorious wonder and gratitude was not always dead. We have it hammered out of us by flashing screens, mind-numbing textbooks, and rationalistic explanations of the magnificent. We are instructed that caterpillars become butterflies through a complex but systematic process known as metamorphosis, but try telling that to a 4-year-old and convincing them that it’s not a miracle or, as C.S. Lewis would have it, try telling them that it’s not “God’s magic.” The furry worm with green insides that is waddling across your front porch crawls into a self-made cocoon and comes out as a winged, multi-colored, butterfly. And that’s not magic (in every good sense of the word)? Not a miracle?
Or eat an orange with that same child and, when a seed drops in the dirt, try explaining to that there is an entire orange tree in that seed and it will spring up if it goes deep enough; just give it time. But, that’s entire normal. Normal? As in, nothing special? There is a whole tree in that seed. We spit trees out of our mouths when eating oranges!
But this lack of gratitude and wonder is what is truly unnatural and we, made in God’s image, cannot bear a life of stoicism and empty rationalism. We cannot bear a life of disregard for the miraculous and glorious that we trip over every day. And we see the fruit of trying to keep up the front, don’t we? Our culture refuses to acknowledge the Creator and the wonder of the world He has given us to live in, and because we have refused, we are angry, sullen, and depressed. Saddened by our own way of looking at the world, we turn on the news to feed our addiction and come away feeling a bit more justified in our rejection of joy.
That’s what we’re missing, right? Rejection of joy comes naturally to fallen man because we are ingrained with ingratitude.