One of my Dad’s favorite records is Boston’s rip-roaring, self-titled debut album. It really is a strong first effort with fantastic vocals, rocking riffs, and some pretty solid classic-rock lyrics. Just as all children grow up listening to their parents music, I grew up listening to Boston. “More than a Feeling” is the song from that epic album that has had the greatest impact on me. It’s not my favorite Boston song, but it is certainly the one I’ve thought the most about. Many, many times I’ve found the words to the chorus playing through my mind…” it’s more than a feeling [more than a feeling!]…”
In the song, the “more than a feeling” is referring to a song that the singer hears that brings back “more than a feeling”.
Somewhere in my childhood the “more than a feeling” line was reinterpreted by my developing mind to mean a desire to live for “more than a feeling”. In other words, a “good feeling” would never be enough and therefore I desire…”more than a feeling”. Listening to the song and knowing the lyrics a little better now, I understand them to point more to a nostalgic, emotional response than a philosophical or spiritual desire to live for “more than a feeling”.
Despite this revelation, the original way that I heard the song as a young boy has stuck with me, and whenever I encounter a situation in life that requires action beyond feeling, I often have those words flash through my mind.
This has all been an elaborate (perhaps confusing?) introduction to a rather simple observation. Somewhere along the way, my generation in particular, has begun to believe that life is indeed about a feeling rather than more than one; specifically feeling good about one’s self.
About two years ago I was sitting with my family in the waiting room of our pediatrician’s office. They have a television in the corner of the room that is always showing CNN’s Health Network programing. On this particular morning the programing centered on an interview with the iCarly star Jennette Michelle Faye McCurdy. McCurdy was on the health program representing the brand “Bird’s Eye” and their assorted varieties of frozen vegetables. The interviewer asked McCurdy why she signed on to advertise for Bird’s Eye. McCurdy, smiling ear to ear, responded, “because eating vegetables makes you feel good and life is about feeling good.”
Now I wouldn’t ever go so far as to say that Jennette Michelle Faye McCurdy, star of iCarly, speaks authoritatively for my generation. However, her statement caught my attention because I honestly believe that she sincerely meant what she said, that life is “about feeling good”.
I chuckled when I heard McCurdy say this because it seems like such an obviously stupid thing to say. What an unbelievably pretentious thing for a young television star to say. Take one trip to the Southern Philippines (or really almost anywhere besides the minority of upper-class suburbs in this world) and that sentiment should quickly be dismembered with a serious reality check regarding what “life is about”.
Since then I’ve thought about that audacious statement quite a bit and have arrived at the unsettling conclusion that she was really on to something; not from a speaking truthfully about the nature of life standpoint, but rather from the standpoint of speaking truthfully about the nature of how she views life. And, even more unsettling, how we (“millennial” Americans) view life.
I think if you were to conduct a poll with young adults in my age range and you asked them what they thought about the phrase, “life is about feeling good”, it would not be uncommon to receive a positive response. There are plenty of us that would likely say, “no way, life isn’t about feeling good”. But actions are revealing to the driving motivations that might be hidden in the actor of the act. And so, I think, that even those of us who would disagree with that set of words find ourselves living them out.
Each generation has its fair share of faults, mistakes, and curses. I don’t think that every generation has believed this, that “life is about feeling good”. I think that there is a uniqueness to the way that my generation has embraced this view of life that is different than mistaken views that the preceding generations exhibited.
Isn’t this what social media is about at its core, feeling good…always? We can so safely present our strengths, our good sides, or positive achievements on social media while hiding our post-puberty (why is this still happening to me?) zits, our children’s temper-tantrums, and our dark secret sins.
This leads me to a rabbit trail about Facebook. It’s in italics, feel free to skip. 2 Timothy 2:13,14 “For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” I’ve found that I am rarely deceived when it comes to sin, I usually sin with full awareness of what I am doing…which says a lot about who men are (good and bad). This isn’t a masculinist or feminist statement by Paul in its intent, its an observation in the design of God and the uniqueness of women and men. When Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, its original intent was the deception of women for the enhanced control of man (disclaimer: that statement is based on some interviews with Zuckerberg I’ve read and the movie made about the creation of the book of Face). And that is what it has done. The men who use Facebook inappropriately, I believe, use it with the full awareness of what they are doing. But each and every time I ever log on to my account my news feed is FILLED with women who are deceived by Facebook saying completely inappropriate things about their marriages, bosses, kids, parents, teachers, etc. The deception feels good to the women because they feel “heard” and “not alone” and the control and inappropriate power to peer into peoples lives feels good to men, thus fulfilling the “life is about feeling good” principle.
I think that this principle especially plays itself out in our parenting. We really are driven by motives of feeling good about ourselves when it comes to parenting our kids.
I’ve found myself living this out with my own children (to my great horror upon revelation). Several times recently I’ve realized that I was playing with my son in order to pacify him. Instead of actively engaging him with my full presence, I was simply going through the motions of spending time with him in order to pacify his desire to be with me. I was fulfilling my duty as dad so that I could say that I did. Fulfilling my dadly duties does two things for me. Firstly, I’ve done what I should do, which results in a “good feeling” whether or not I actually engaged my son. Secondly, my fulfillment of duty frees me to then pursue my own desired activities guilt free. Thus I have dehumanized my precious son while still feeling good about myself on two accounts, firstly because I did my dad thing, and secondly because I am now free to do what I want to do. That sucks. I hate that I can do that.
Fortunately, I love my son, and that is not the usual way that I interact with him. But it is revealing to the motivations that can so easily drive me.
The desire to “feel good” is what drives the vast majority of parenting conversations these days: Immunizations, television watching, organic food, preschool, etc. These “conversations” so easily become about the parent feeling good based on which way they lean, what food they feed their children, and whether or not they were immunized.
Several months ago, close to the time of the birth of my second child, my neighbors asked me how many kids I was going to have. These neighbors are a few years younger than me and have a beautiful three year old daughter. After my answer (I’ll leave you in suspense) I asked if they planned on having any more kids. They answered that, no, they didn’t want to have any more kids because then their daughter would have to share her toys and learn that life wasn’t just about her.
I don’t tell this story to bash my neighbors. We are friends and spend a lot of time together. But it is revealing to the motivation that drives my generation. Life is about feeling good.
I could go on and on with many more examples of the way I’ve been seeing this show up in our culture. And I wish I had a good answer for how to change or what to do about it. The only thing I know to do is to speak honestly and openly about it. Life is clearly not about feeling good. It is so, so much more than just that.