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Beating Back The Millennial Darkness

Reader Karl comments:

I’m mid-30s and have gainful employment, but it’s a literal struggle everyday to get up and go to the office. I like my job, but its not a vocation (as it were), it just pays the bills. As such, I need to derive meaning from elsewhere. But as a single, non-religious person, where does that come from? I’d have more drive if I had a family to provide for, but that is not in the cards. I might be able to fill the existential ennui with god, if I actually believed he existed, but I’m not blessed with the gift of faith. What exactly am I supposed to do to beat back the darkness that has enveloped so many of my generation?

This is a serious question. I would like to open the floor to serious answers. If we as a culture don’t come up with serious answers for men and women in Karl’s position, political ideologues of the Left and the Right will.

I’m reading Anne Applebaum’s book about the Sovietization of Eastern Europe. She said that while most populations whose countries were occupied by the Red Army immediately after World War II rejected communism, there were no small number of people in those countries who welcomed communism. Why? Because they had lived through the destruction of capitalism by the Great Depression, and the collapse, or near-collapse, of many institutions that had defined their lives, and then lived through World War II, which literally destroyed what was left. They were rootless and without ideals. Communism promised them a sense of purpose, and of belonging, as well as a future. It was a nightmare, as we now know, but the point is that many young people were primed to believe in it because they had nothing else.

If you’ve read Houellebecq’s Submission, you can see how Islam would appeal to deracinated Westerners, even if (as in the novel) the convert is a cynic who doesn’t believe the religion.

Let me underscore: I want serious answers. No mocking Karl or his problem. I won’t post it if you do. If you counsel Karl to turn to religion, be more thoughtful than, “You need Jesus.” Let’s turn this into one of those threads we love to read.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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