“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

It All Started When My Daughter Said "We're in Hell"

 Welcome to Hell. My daughter Claire walked over to my house one evening in November of 2021, weeping big fat tears. She was seventeen years old.

“Daddy, This is Hell. We’re in Hell.” Claire wasn’t kidding or exaggerating. She was very tearfully saying something she thought was true. Claire had just seen a video made during a school shooting, but this was just the latest in a series of awful news. Claire is deeply concerned about the Hellish state of the globally warming world; she is a passionate and creative soul who wants to know as much as she can about politics and culture. Sites such as YouTube and Reddit have malign side effects on me, and I can’t imagine the impact on younger minds. Very often the most cynical voice (quite possibly someone not much older than a seventeen-year-old) rises to the top and presents radical content in the key of total paralysis. They say they are about liberation; but the how is ‘You have no idea how grim and how messed up and how prisonlike this world has become, compared with me. I am more intelligent than you, because I am more depressing than you.” For a vulnerable mind struggling with what it means to be a person in this world, the side effect overwhelms the content. 

“Daddy, this is Hell.” Claire didn’t mean it metaphorically. The look of anguish on her face said so. What to do? Just deny her reality? Insist on being cheerful? What? 

“Okay, so this is Hell,” I replied, fumbling for those parent skills. Join your child. Don’t delete their experience. “So, how to live, now we know this is Hell? We still have to live. We have to figure out what to do with Oliver the cat. How to feed him, it’s still an issue isn’t it?” 

Then I started to think oh, Claire was right. 

This is Hell.   (Extract from Hell: In Search of a Christian Ecology, Columbia UP, Earth Day 2024)

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