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where have all the grown-ups goneWhere have all the grown-ups gone,

Long time passing?

Where have all the grown-ups gone,

Long time ago?

Those of my generation might recall the song, Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, a hit record by the Kingston Trio, among others, composed by Pete Seeger. Part of the folk music revival of the 1950s and 60s, which poured forth, for good or ill, the likes of Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, the song lamented the foolishness of the modern world, with its wanton destruction of humanity in the inhumanity of war. As protest songs go, it was better than most, repeating the plaintive and cautionary question, “when will we ever learn?” Today, half a century or more after the song first pricked our consciences, it seems that it is in need of revision. The flowers continue to grow, charged with the grandeur of God, shining out like shook foil, reminding us, as they are no doubt meant to do, that above all man-made shadows rides the Sun.

In these dark and darkening days it is not the flowers that are floundering but those who wear flowers in their hair. This might seem counter-intuitive, considering that the hippy counter-culture, with its creed of “anything goes” and “do your own thing,” appears to have triumphed in the corridors of power and in the formerly hallowed halls of the Supreme Court. Having had their wicked way, the children of the counter-culture have “progressed” from the killing of babies to the killing of marriage. Soon, perhaps, they may “progress” to the killing of Christians, which is where such “progress” in the name of “liberty, equality and brotherhood” has led in the past, in places as diverse as France, Russia, China, Cambodia, et cetera, ad nauseam. When will we ever learn, or, at least, when will they ever learn?

In truth, “progressives” will never learn because they believe they already know it all. They have nothing to learn from their elders (the past) because their elders are stupid. Their elders are stupid because they don’t agree with the “progressives.” It’s the sort of circular argument that parents might have had with their adolescent sons or daughters. Having reached the ripe old age of fourteen, the teenager knows it all. He knows especially and above all that his parents are dumb.

The wisdom of experience which knows that selfishness is self-destructive and that pride precedes a fall is as nothing to the “progressive” know-it-all. He defies the wisdom of the elders and deifies his “self,” wearing his “Pride” with pride. So be it. If he refuses the gift of wisdom, casting it as a pearl of great price before the swine of ignorance, he must learn the only way left to him. He must learn the hard way. He must see how the god he has made of himself is a pathetic, shriveling thing that gets smaller and uglier the more that he tries to feed it with pride. He needs to look in the mirror and see that his deified self has defiled his true self. He needs to see with increasing horror the gollumized monster that looks back at him. If even then he refuses to see the error of his ways, desiring nothing but his precious self, he will have condemned himself to a self-inflicted and self-constructed hell. He will get what he selfishly desires and live interminably with the despair it brings.

The problem is, however, that the deified self, proclaiming its Pride, sacrifices others on the altar it has erected to itself. Refusing the self-sacrifice that Love demands, it sacrifices others to gratify its own desires. It leaves behind a lengthening trail of victims, slaughtering the innocent along with the guilty. The ugly truth is that you can only “do your own thing” by trampling on your neighbours, betraying your spouse, abandoning your parents, abusing your children, and hating your God.

CaptureAt root, Pride is the refusal to grow up. It is making ourselves the centre of our own cosmos, which is, to say the least, extremely childish! And yet the tragedy (and the comedy) is that we are living in a world in which most people are refusing to grow up, even those who should know better such as Supreme Court Justices. To be a grown-up is to realize that life is a journey on which we are meant to grow in knowledge, understanding, wisdom and virtue. To be a grown-up is to realize that Love demands the surrender of the self to the other, and that such surrender leads to a greater happiness for everyone, including the one who surrenders. The paradox of Love, which has stood the test of time, is that self-sacrifice leads to happiness in this world as well as in the next. It is for this reason that healthy societies promote Love, which is the encouragement, in law, of self-sacrificial behavior, such as abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage and an understanding of marriage itself as being a life-long cohesive and coherent union between a man and a woman—a union that requires a lifelong commitment, till death do the spouses part, in sickness and in health, with a commitment to having children, knowing that they are the blessing and ultimate purpose of the marital union.

We grow up by giving ourselves fully to the other; we mature through the act of laying down our lives for our spouses and our children. Parenthood is, for most of us, the best training ground for learning to be grown-ups. The weakening of marriage and the refusal of the blessing of children condemns us to the immaturity of Pride. A society which turns its back on holy matrimony and refuses the blessing of children is not only immature, it is doomed to fail and fall. It has no future. In living for today it has abandoned tomorrow. In refusing to live in Love it condemns itself to a loveless Death. Its passing will not only be just and no doubt ugly and painful, it will be a blessing. It is, after all, through the fall of the proud that the meek will inherit the earth. Deo gratias!

Books by Joseph Pearce may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

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12 replies to this post
  1. I think Mr. Pearce is confusing pride with narcissism. Having pride and confidence and esteem for one’s abilities and accomplishments is a wonderful thing. It does not destroy societies: it creates and strengthens them.

    Also, I am uncomfortable with this idea that Love is about constant “self-sacrifice”, a position that Mr. Pearce seems to want to hammer home. There are many–far too many–men and women who give and give and then give some more in their marriages, only to turn up, time and again, holding the short end of the stick.

    Should a marriage prove truly untenable, no man or woman should be condemned for wishing to end it. This is not immaturity, it is honesty.

  2. A progressive wag said to me once that faith is believing something without any proof. I replied no, that’s not faith, that’s liberalism.

  3. True love is ABSOLUTELY, SACRIFICIAL. I think many confuse being a doormat to loving. Sometimes, true love requires painful decisions, for the good of all involved, especially in a marriage. You can love someone who is bad for you by not enabling their behavior, possibly leaving them, continuing to pray for them and work on forgiving them. This requires a great deal of self-sacrifice – more than just sitting there. waiting for the next abusive moment to come.
    A parent who truly loves her child will realize that the child must grow up to be self-sufficient, which means the parent “grows up to be useless.” (so to speak).

  4. Marcia Christoff-Kurapovna: “I think Mr. Pearce is confusing pride with narcissism.”

    Narcissism is a form of pride.

    “Having pride and confidence and esteem for one’s abilities and accomplishments is a wonderful thing.”

    If that pride is true and just, if that esteem is valid, then that’s not what he is talking about.

    Mr. Pearce is using the Christian meaning of pride: as the foremost mortal sin. It may help to understand what he wrote if you re-read, but substitute “invincible arrogance” where ever he uses the word “pride.”

    Arrogance, in this case, being a hugely over-inflated and quite false sense of one’s abilities and value.

    • Narcissism is not a form of pride. Narcissism is based upon self-doubt and insecurity, then inflated to petulant, fearful egoism. Pride is the opposite: its foundation is self-confidence.

      To the lady above who writes that true love is “absolutely sacrificial”: the statement that leaving someone who is bad for one requires self-sacrifice–no, it does not. It requires the very opposite: self-interest, and rightly so. It’s the sacrificial lamb gets the slaughter.

      Also, the parent-child relationship is not one to which I referred.

  5. Marcia Christoff-Kurapovna: There’s pride and there’s pride. I suggest googling C.S. Lewis on the subject, but yeah, the word pride is often used in a sense that (in its proper context) is fine. That is not the sense that is used in this piece.

    Regarding love being self-sacrificial: just because love is centered on self sacrifice does not mean that love is stupid. You sacrifice of yourself, but not just to any old thing in any old way. Love between spouses requires certain sacrifices, love between friends others, and the love of one’s enemies (those who seek to harm you) still others. If a marriage turns abusive, it is not that we no longer sacrifice in our love, but that the correct way of doing so changes, and may well involve separation. Self-sacrifice does not mean rolling over and taking abuse, or giving the other person whatever they want whether they should have it or not.

    • To Mr. Jacob S.

      “There is pride and there is pride”. Exactly. Mr. Pearce did not make a proper distinction. This is what I have been saying.

      As for Lewis, I am quite aware of his work, and of his definition of the Four Loves, borrowed from the Greek concept of same.

      Once again, I am aware that ‘self-sacrifice’ in love does not mean being a ‘doormat’ or ‘taking abuse’. I answered the lady above who wrote that to leave an untenable relationship is an act of self-sacrifice. Such an action certainly is not. It is an act of self-interest, as it should be.

      I will not comment further.

  6. We with the albeit limited wisdom of experience, and all the bruises collected in getting to this point, are also paying the price for our present culture of youthful omniscience. I’ve always hoped that, instead of lowering the voting age to meet the impassioned but inexperienced demands of our young, the voting age should be raised to coincide with the age restrictions of the office for which one votes.

  7. RICHARD JOHN NEUHAUS: “I once asked an old priest, a famous spiritual director, what he had learned from hearing thousands of confessions. He had a ready answer: ‘There are no grown-ups.'”

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