The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. Numbered sections 203-208 point us “Towards A New Lifestyle.” Let’s explore it this week, starting with today’s read:
203. Since the market tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sell its products, people can easily get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending. Compulsive consumerism is one example of how the techno-economic paradigm affects individuals. Romano Guardini had already foreseen this: “The gadgets and technics forced upon (us) by the patterns of machine production and of abstract planning (humankind) accepts quite simply; they are the forms of life itself. To either a greater or lesser degree (humankind) is convinced that (our) conformity is both reasonable and just”.[Romano Guardini, Das Ende der Neuzeit, 9th edition, Würzburg, 1965, 66-67 (English: The End of the Modern World, Wilmington, 1998, 60)]
Another prophet, like Eisenhower, eh?
This paradigm leads people to believe that they are free as long as they have the supposed freedom to consume. But those really free are the minority who wield economic and financial power. Amid this confusion, postmodern humanity has not yet achieved a new self-awareness capable of offering guidance and direction, and this lack of identity is a source of anxiety. We have too many means and only a few insubstantial ends.
Many means, and few ends: I have seen this. I’ve noticed it especially in young people who struggle to make the most of their many opportunities, mainly because they cannot or do not commit to some great good at the end of their schooling or career. The basic search for meaning: even older people struggle with this. How do we handle life when our plans go awry and we struggle to find meaning in things we’ve accepted for so many years, but have been thrown out the window?
What sort of new approach, new perspective, new lifestyle will guide us out of this wilderness?