Progress, for Better and Worse

I was at a wine and poetry gathering the other night, where a young woman of Jewish descent offered a traditional sung blessing. She prefaced it by saying that the meaning of the Hebrew was to offer thanks to God for the wine, but that as she didn’t believe in any sort of external divinity, she liked to think of the song as giving thanks to herself. In fact, she was sharing it simply to share something she thought was cool from her heritage. It was, in short, all about her.

This fact was a consequence of a great deal of what we might call social progress: from belief to skepticism to atheism to narcissism. Gone was the Jealous God, with all of his crazy rules and genocidal impulses. But gone, too, was the meaning of giving thanks. Worse than that, in place of this thanksgiving was a childish self-obsession with nothing to grow up into.

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