Here we go again! A polar vortex is swirling down from the north and arctic air blasts those in its path. Temperatures plummet to bone-chilling numbers that don’t even register on thermometers. Window panes chatter in the unrelenting blast. Cars refuse to start or helplessly slide off the road into snowbanks only to be buried by snowplows before they can be extricated. Thousands of airline flights are cancelled, adding chaos to the subzero days and nights.
This is nothing new. I remember my Dad telling about being stranded on the freeway in a raging blizzard as he was driving to Michigan to join my Mom and sister and her husband for my niece’s birth. He ended up spending several nights in a service plaza on the turnpike with hundreds of others. I ended up driving at a snail’s pace for five hours from the Indianapolis airport to Anderson, Indiana, on snow-clogged, unplowed freeways in a blizzard, normally a drive of one and a half hours, at most. We’ve witnessed wind chills of minus 60 degrees, snow drifts that didn’t melt until April, and huddling around fireplaces when the electricity was off for days.
I sympathize and empathize with you ice-bound refugees surviving like lost arctic explorers in an endless snow storm. I pity you when your fingers and toes go numb as you shovel the driveway again after the snowplow creates a worse mess than you just cleared. I’m sorry you have to wade through ankle deep slush or watch helplessly as garbage trucks slide inexorably toward you on ice-covered roads. I remember the sinking feeling I used to get when the meteorologists would gleefully announce an approaching subzero disaster.
I do understand. Yes, I do. I endured thirty-four years of terrible winters and gloomy springs and the endless dreariness between January 1 and May 1 that torpedoed my mood until Eeyore seemed positively cheerful in comparison.
But…no longer! When we retired, we moved to Arizona! Today, January 31, Karon and I played tennis under sunny skies. I actually look forward to getting up each day where the sun shines over 300 days a year. Yes, it gets chilly here with the occasional hard freeze, and it can get toasty in the summertime (it’s a dry heat), but blizzards are a distant memory and I haven’t driven on an icy road in almost a decade.
Contrary to what you may be thinking, I’m not gloating. It occurs to me that we hear of a somewhat similar scenario in the Bible. In Genesis, the problem is not the cold, it’s godlessness. We learn that Lot, Abraham’s nephew, in selecting the best grazing land for his flocks, opted for the lush fields near Sodom and Gomorrah, and that’s where he moved his family. Perhaps he was unaware of the moral climate there, or thought it was unimportant. Like a polar vortex, godlessness swept goodness out of Sodom and Gomorrah like an arctic blizzard. Year after brutal year the evil worsened until no vestige of common decency was left. It’s worth noting that only God’s direct intervention helped Lot understand what was at stake. He barely escaped with his life.
Many people and places today are morally bankrupt with never a thought about goodness or God. The majority of our entertainment is empty of moral value, or introduces even baser lifestyles. Even innocuous distraction can clog our hearts and numb our souls. Social media can be wonderful, but a lot of it is depersonalizing and sinks to the lowest common denominator. The winter of godlessness is upon us and shows no signs of abatement. Nudity, violence, tasteless humor, and crime have become not only our entertainment but our lifestyles. Those who suggest fidelity, purity, and right are bullied and ridiculed.
It’s time we recognize what this blight is doing to us and choose to live differently. We must escape the soul-suffocating atmosphere and find warmth and light.
Not everyone wants to move to sunny climates, nor should they. There are many reasons to live where winters are difficult, like work and family. Some people like winter, so they say. Spiritual winter, however, is far different. There are no redeeming qualities in godlessness. Nor is there any hope where God is abandoned.
The concept of solo marriage hit the headlines in Italy September 2017 when Italian Laura Mesi married herself. The 40-year-old fitness trainer dressed in a white gown and was joined by 70 family and friends for the self-marriage ceremony, (which is not legally recognized). She paid $12,000 for the wedding, which included a three-tier cake topped with a figurine of just herself on the top followed by a whirlwind honeymoon for one to Egypt.
When 38-year-old Sophie Tanner of the UK celebrated her second wedding anniversary earlier this year, there were none of the usual trappings – no flowers or romantic meal for two; no hastily purchased card sealed with a kiss.
It’s not that her other half is remiss, but that on May 16, 2015, when the PR consultant took her vows on the steps of Brighton’s Unitarian Church, the person she swore to cherish for eternity was, well, herself.
Welcome to sologamy, or the practice of marrying oneself. This trend has been around for the last ten years. Is it catching on? We certainly hope not.
So far, this practice has been confined mostly to women as part of a woman’s empowerment statement. A 36-year old woman named Erika Anderson, from Brooklyn, famously married herself last spring. She said she got tired of people asking her why she wasn’t married, as if there was something wrong with her. “I think it’s hard not to adopt whatever society’s messages are … and I certainly think that one of the messages is, ‘You are not enough if you are not with someone else,’” Erika Anderson said of her decision to self-marry. The 37-year-old, who lives in New York, wed her university sweetheart in her twenties but the pair split when aged thirty after growing apart. Committing to herself, she said, was “an act of defiance.”
Some years earlier, another young woman named Dominique, at age 22, also married herself. While Anderson had a public self-marriage ceremony modeled on the traditional kind with friends, a wedding dress, and a ring, Dominique got married in her bedroom by herself. She had a ring also, but it didn’t go on her finger. She put it in her nose saying, “I breathe my vows every day.”
Dominique went to the Burning Man festival in Nevada in 2011, where she helped about one hundred other women get married to themselves. Now, of course, she is a self-marriage counselor and minister of something called the Temple of Divine Feminine Flow. Through her website, you can purchase a ten-week, self-marriage, self-study program to prepare yourself for the huge step of getting hitched to yourself. If you want one-on-one private lessons with Dominique, it costs $50 per session. Not that she’s trying to cash in on the self-marriage concept or anything.
Whatever it is called, it is not legally recognized. That is, you can’t marry yourself and then file a joint tax return or claim benefits. At least not yet. Outside of the Temple of Divine Feminine Flow, I’m not sure any so-called religion would recognize self-marriage either. However, that is small potatoes to someone who loves themselves enough to self-marry. Erika Anderson says that when people ask her if she’s married now, she says yes and then introduces them to her other half.
This self-marriage phenomenon is just one more evidence of the seriously misguided people our society is churning out in record numbers. More troublesome are a significant percentage of today’s young adults who have been raised to think the world revolves around them. They have no clue of the long-term consequences of their immaturity. All of their lives their parents have told them they are special, apparently just for being born. A child coming down a slide is praised by his mother for being a hero (for allowing gravity to work?) Teachers in some public schools are forbidden to give failing grades even if students turn in no work or flunk their tests. (This is not hearsay: a current teacher told me this.) After all, we don’t want anyone to feel he/she is less valuable than another student.
Welcome to the self-entitled generation.
It’s no wonder that twenty-somethings have no budgets, still live at home, and complain about how difficult “adulting” is. You cannot build a strong nation on people whose major accomplishment is beating their friends in video games or drinking the most alcohol. They have never been taught right from wrong and therefore they bristle when you suggest that their choices are inappropriate. They defy authority while imagining that the benefits that authority provides them are owed to them. You can rewrite history and delete from your textbooks the things and people you don’t like, but it’s still true that those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.
Although flooding America today, self-entitled persons are nothing new. The world has had its share of those who flagrantly live as though rules don’t apply to them. I think we could say Absalom, son of King David, the first King of Israel, was self-entitled. He grew up in the palace where there were few rules and no consequences for those who broke them. He fostered rebellion against his father, slept with his concubines, and eventually had himself crowned king while David was still on the throne. The Old West spawned gangs of criminals. Italy famously produced its mafia called “Cosa Nostra” (Our Thing). Today’s cyber terrorists delight in wreaking catastrophe. All of this vividly demonstrates how society implodes when people are only concerned about themselves and their comfort.
Whether its professional football players dishonoring our flag or people who think that their Johnny-come-lately whims have more value than the eternal truths of scripture, I’m afraid that we may only be seeing the beginning of family disintegration and the unraveling of justice.
So, what are you going to do about it?
Most of us gripe about it. We commiserate together and roll our eyes about how society is going to hell in a handbasket. We spend our time lamenting what people wear (“I Saw it at Walmart” web site), we ridicule their so-called careers, and cluck our collective tongues at their never-ending stupidity, all the while praising ourselves that we at least have some sense. By the way, the “Going to hell in a handbasket” phrase has been in print since at least the 1800s.
We worry about it. It’s easy to allow these disturbing trends to dislodge our security and steal our sleep at night. We fret who’s going to run the government when these disorganized and dangerously imbalanced people land in public office. We fear that our nation’s moral fabric—already shredded beyond comprehension—will totally disintegrate. We are afraid of those who are different, imagining that they are no longer motivated by human emotions like ours.
We despair of the future, forgetting that God is still God and that there may be other viable futures for us that we haven’t even imagined. We cut off communication with the world and isolate ourselves as though the rest of the world has been bombed and we alone are left in our nuclear fallout shelters.
Could we try this?
Stop seeing others as “them,” and see them as individuals. When we group people together we tend to forget they are humans like us who want to succeed, to be loved, and find meaningful lives. Resist the tendency to jump on the bandwagon when others lump people together and blame them. Instead, look for and find one person you are writing off and start praying for them. Start a conversation. Send a card. Discover what would make them happy and try to make it happen. If you don’t know anyone who you would classify as self-entitled or a lost cause, maybe it’s time to find one.
Ask yourself about the history of the person of whom you are most critical. There are reasons people turn out the way they do. It doesn’t excuse bad choices, but it can explain them. Can we reasonably expect our fractured society to produce emotionally balanced offspring? Concentrate not on what they’re doing, or what you assume they’re doing, but on what you can do to build a bridge to them. Should they be cold to you or sluff off your attempt, don’t be discouraged. It takes time to build trust, and most of us could use some practice at building new relationships. Ask about the meaning of a tattoo or what they love about coloring their hair purple. You will surely learn something you didn’t know as well as starting up a conversation.
Cultivate a positive spirit. It’s so easy to see the dark side, or the glass that’s half empty. It takes work to see what is right. You may light a lot of candles before one stays lit, but that’s still a good thing. Ask God to alert you the moment you begin to criticize. It probably won’t take more than a minute or two. 😊 God still believes the world is worth saving. People determined to do right have rescued the world more times than history can record it. But they usually do it one person at a time.
 Thanks to my neighbor, Christopher Zimmerman, Whetstone, AZ, 2017 for the info. about self-marriage. Used by permission.
I am thinking today about Percy Bysshe Shelley’s sonnet, “Ozymandias.”
“I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—’Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'”
Shelley–and the Bible–remind us that even the mightiest human kingdoms are temporary. I remember this as I ponder the direction of our nation. I celebrate being anchored in eternal truth and remember that when Jesus says (in Revelation) “I make all things new” He is not talking about this election…or this nation…or any nation. In God’s Kingdom there is no deceit or narcissistic power-grabbing; but what our hearts long for: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.