A sheet of paper turned up in my mailbox the other day bearing a message that had obviously been printed from the Internet. A quick search confirms that this – oh, let’s call it an essay, for lack of a better term – is ubiquitous on the Internet. I’ll annotate it as we go along to avoid making you read it twice. (You’re welcome.) Oh, and it’s kind of lengthy, so let’s all take a bathroom break, refresh our cups of coffee, and reconvene in five. Sound good? Good.
The Paradox of Time – Author Unknown
Actually, the author is not unknown. It was written by one Dr. Bob Moorehead, a retired pastor of Seattle’s Overlake Christian Church, and was originally titled The Paradox of Our Time, which makes slightly more sense. Somewhere along the line a word got dropped from the title and poor Dr. Moorehead got shafted out of a writing credit. For a shot of irony, if you run a quick search you’ll find this Christian-themed piece attributed to sources as varied as George Carlin (an avowed atheist) and the Dalai Lama (the Tibetan Buddhist guru). Gotta love the Internet.
The paradox of time in history is that we:
Have taller building, but shorter tempers
Wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints
A paradox is a statement that appears sound, but nevertheless leads to a logically inconsistent conclusion. Consider the following example: This statement is false. If we assume that the statement is true, then it must be false, but if it is false, then it is true, et cetera et cetera ad infinitum.
Most of these statements do not constitute paradoxes, because they are not logically inconsistent. For example, tall buildings and wide freeways are not logically connected to tempers and viewpoints; ergo there is no reason to draw any conclusions about human interactions based on the scale of our construction projects, nor should we be surprised when one doesn’t mirror the other.
I suppose naming this piece The Paradox of Our Time gave it a certain air of authority that other titles (such as I’m Going To Say A Bunch Of Things That Have Nothing To Do With Each Other) might have lacked.
We spend more, but have less
We buy more, but enjoy it less
I suppose that’s kind of paradoxical, but I wouldn’t say it’s directly linked to our time. I think it’s been going on for centuries.
We have bigger houses and smaller families
Bigger churches and smaller congregations
Citation needed. Seriously, have you seen those megachurches? They’re like the Wal-Marts of religion; if Mom-and-Pop churches are losing parishioners, look to those behemoths. (I’m just kidding; I have no idea how megachurches affect attendance at surrounding churches – I just wanted to get in a jab at Wal-Mart.)
Also, there are plenty of people with small houses that have big families, so…fail.
A multitude of prayers, but very little faith
A blessed life, but lack of gratitude
A loving God for our blemished hearts
I think most religious scholars would agree that paradoxes are woven into the very fabric of Christianity – as well as other religions – but you’ve spent this whole essay until now talking about negative “paradoxes”, and now you throw some saving grace into the mix? From a stylistic standpoint, I would have saved this bit until the end. I’m just saying…
We have more conveniences, but less time
We have more degrees, but less sense
More knowledge, but less judgment
More experts, but more problems
More medicine, but less wellness
Hmmm, do I detect a hint of anti-intellectualism?
We have multiplied our possessions,
But reduced our values
We talk too much, love too seldom,
And hate too often
Pray tell, exactly what is the proper amount to hate? I wouldn’t want to hate too often.
We’ve learned how to make a living,
But not a life
We’ve added years to life, not life to years
Either you just blew my mind, or I have no idea what you’re talking about. Either way, I have this intense feeling of confusion in my head.
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back
But we have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor
Correction: I haven’t personally been to the Moon, and neither have you. The twelve men who walked on the Moon between 1969 and 1972 may or may not have been adept at introducing themselves to neighbors.
We’ve conquered outer space, but not inner space
What are you talking about? We’ve conquered outer space? We’ve never sent humans to Mars, and more than half of the robotic missions we’ve sent to that planet have failed! We don’t have orbiting hotels or moon bases or warp drives! We don’t have personal spaceships! We’ve dabbled our toes in outer space, but we’re a long way from conquering it.
Since I don’t know exactly what you mean by inner space, I’m not sure whether we’ve conquered it or not.
We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul
Oh, that’s nice. I was unaware that we’d completely solved air pollution! Well, good for us!
Hey, wait a minute…
We’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice
I guess I understand what you’re saying, and I agree, but I don’t see the connection between the two. Did the Manhattan Project have the eradication of racism as a secondary goal?
We have higher incomes, but lower morals
We’ve become long on quantity, but short on quality
The author seems to be mired in the Good Old Days fallacy.
These are the times of tall men, and short character
And orcs and trolls and dark shadows across the land! Onward to Mordor!
Steep profits, and shallow relationships
More leisure, but less fun
More kinds of food, but less nutrition
Okay, but not everybody is like that! Some people actually have happy fulfilling lives. Please stop lumping us all into your miserable fantasy.
These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce
Of fancier houses, but broken homes
I hate to sound like a broken record, but why is this a paradox?
It is a time when there is much in the show window
And nothing in the stock room
Ha ha ha…whaaat? Are you not even interested in making sense anymore?
A time when technology can bring this letter to you
And a time when you can choose to make a difference
Or just hit delete…
Remember kids, if you delete a chain email, you are responsible for all of society’s woes! Good night everybody!