Family in Postmodern Life

Earlier this year, Rod Dreher published The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life, the true story of his sister’s losing struggle with cancer and how that painful experience helped him overcome years of alienation from his family. I’ve not read the book, but judging from several reviews, it’s a tear-jerker.

Matthew Hennessey, writing in City Journal, found the book to be a piercing commentary on “the postmodern alienation and ironic posturing that has for too long informed my generation’s warped notions of the good life.” He explains:

Raised on pop culture and relativism, convinced we could create sustainable worlds from scratch, trapped in a permanent adolescence, we find ourselves now at mid-life, with children of our own, with jobs and responsibilities, but with no frame of reference for what’s true or real or good. Who are we, we wonder? How did we end up in an America that seems smaller than the one we grew up in? Why does the culture feel so inauthentic? Where does our bitterness and sarcasm come from? Why are we lonely so much of the time?

Hennessey finds Dreher’s story to be a reflection of his own, revealing a powerful lesson so desperately needed by their generation:

Family—difficult and complicated as it is—remains society’s indispensable institution. Families make communities and communities make a nation. . . . Family might be hard, but going it alone is almost impossible.

So true. That’s why the fight to preserve the family is worth the struggle. It’s too bad that it takes the death of loved ones to make some people realize it.

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