Wesley J. Smith, who has been professionally involved in some heavy-duty culture-war struggles advocating the sanctity of life, says that comedian Dennis Miller taught him how to enjoy life, even as our culture dismantles itself. The trick? Detach yourself emotionally from the things you cannot control. That is, you can’t control the world, but you can control your reaction to it. Excerpts:
The talk show host and comedian, Dennis Miller, has helped me see this. Like others in conservative talk radio, Miller is sharply pessimistic—perhaps overly so—about our current condition. “America has fundamentally shifted,” he says repeatedly, “It has tipped.” A majority of Americans embrace fiscally and socially destructive attitudes, he believes. As a consequence, we have entered a time of chronic political and cultural decline, a phenomenon he labels, “America 180.”
But he differs from other cultural critics by offering an effective antidote to bitterness. Rather than permit ourselves to be defined by difficult times—what he calls “living from the outside-in”—he continually urges listeners to instead, “live from the inside-out.”
What does he mean? Don’t sweat the general culture’s disapproval. Don’t look “outside” ourselves for personal validation. In short, don’t allow our personal joie de vivre to depend on the outcome of elections, court rulings, media fairness, or what others think, believe, or do.
This takes discipline. So, focus on those “internal” things that give your life meaning; faith, personal philosophy, family and friends. Take the time to recreate, travel, learn, and relax with hobbies. Do these things and we will be at the cause of our lives, rather than the effect of the cultural environment—to the point that the dysfunctional world we inhabit will lose its ability to disrupt the things we care most about.
Smith says that doesn’t mean abandoning the public square, but it does mean living in a sort of personal Benedict Option, in which you selectively withdraw behind a wall of detachment within which you can maintain your inner peace by night, so to speak, even as you go out into the world to engage it by day.