Hedgehog, Identity, Garden State and You.

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I awakened to a good old East Coast thunderstorm with lightning, the massive boom of thunder, pounding rain a metaphorical reminder of powerful, energetic, living forces at work–refreshing after immersing myself in a Hedgehog Review on identity followed by a viewing of “Garden State.”

Hedgehog academically parsed the nihilism of an age in which many people have lost their identities. Various scholars explored the loss of self, describing “self” as role player, public and private self, the surface as paramount reality, drifting souls, facades only, inner life as a luxury and waste of time, the homeless mind, the shift from a producing society to a consuming society, malleable identities, self as an illusion, superficial over depth.

It was great preparation for “Garden State,” a look at the meaningless of life through the eyes of the next generation. Here we find a central character who cannot feel anything at his own mother’s funeral, whose friends have slipped into the fog of drugs, his rich friend derives no satisfaction from his wealth, (he discovered a variant on Velcro) and his poor friends are trapped in unfulfilling work. Each character is the product of a dysfunctional family absent of fathers AND mothers.

And then into his life comes SAM, a quirky, free-spirited girl who is the counterfoil of everything our central character represents. Her home is odd, but loving (though again fatherless). She seems innocent and un-corroded by her acidic cultural environment and she FEELS deeply.

Together they begin the process of unraveling their particular “screwed-up-ness” and discover an ability to understand and be understood.

Zach Braff’s film has been called a seminal work for this generation and as a portrayal of a generation’s lostness it meets the test, but the remedy for their ennui is frighteningly inadequate and vacuous. That an overmedicated kid, who is just discovering feelings at the age of 26, and a child-like free spirit with a penchant for lying and wears a helmet to work in a law office, are each other’s solution is ominous, and even a superficial, drifting soul ought to recognize the inevitable doom and heartache that lies ahead.

Here is the rub. The responsibility for helping this fallen generation falls to a next generation of Christian kids, who for the most part have been sheltered from the life portrayed in “Garden State,” OR who share in it’s sense of hopelessness.

Good news must be contextualized in each generation and this generation needs good news embodied incarnationally in peers who have discovered the deep faith lacking in most contemporary church life.

Just as all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put humpty together again, a few praise choruses, a recitation of the words printed on a tract, even the promise of eternal life are not going to penetrate the depth of angst this generation feels.

The gospel is adequate and deep find it, live it, because the world needs it.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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