This afternoon at the library, a lady told me that her little daughter was admiring baby William. "She's always looking out for babies!" said Mom. Sure enough, in a moment her daughter pulled a book about little sisters off the shelf. Mom issued a firm veto. "No little sisters here," she said. "Mommy is done."
A bit later her son brought her a science book. "Mom, what's evolution?" he asked.
"No, it's against the Bible," said Mom, discarding it onto the table without looking at it.
As I silently digested this, I watched the one of the denizens of the fancy new teens' room keeping watch for the security guard on his rounds. Insulated from the rest of the population, the inhabitants of the room had little incentive to shake off the peculiarly adolescent forms of narcissism and indolence. The boys, scrofulous and shaggy, pants too big and limbs too long; the girls in their desperate makeup and their tight shirts; everyone slumped on couches swiping at phones or watching the video game up on the big flatscreen. There was a constant mutter of joyless laughter.
Plato says that the unexamined life is not worth living, and Aristotle proposes that happiness is the highest end of all action. I don't know what constitutes happiness in the minds of the teenagers at the library, but the teen room doesn't seem to be providing it. I don't know what the examined life means to the lady whose sense of Christianity encompasses both creationism and birth control. And what do happiness and the examined life mean to me? If I am a sign of contradiction to the world, am I at least constant in my contradiction, or am I merely contradicting myself?
I don't particularly want my daughters hanging out in the teen room because it seems like more of a hindrance to the examined life than a help to it. I can't control their lives or their future decisions, but I can do my level best to assure that if they ever do live the unexamined life in the library, it will be by choice and not through ignorance.
I also promote their ultimate happiness by giving them little sisters.
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