Hold Fast to the Good: Fighting Against Our Age of Angst

By Jeff Minick
Jeff Minick
Jeff Minick
Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C. He is the author of two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust on Their Wings,” and two works of non-fiction, “Learning as I Go” and “Movies Make the Man.” Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va. See JeffMinick.com to follow his blog.
September 1, 2021 Updated: September 1, 2021

When we become depressed or anxious, some of us look for help from therapists. Others try to improve their mental health through meditation or prayer, exercise, diet, and rest, or the company of family and friends.

But what do we do when it’s not just us who are undergoing these troubles? How do we cope when our entire culture seems ridden with hopelessness and melancholy, as does ours these days, when good news from the public square seems as rare as rain in a desert?

Let’s take a look.

Our Present Troubles

The pandemic of 2020-2021 has wrought enormous damage to the mental health of Americans and others worldwide. The online article “The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use” reports a four-fold increase in the number of adults suffering from depression and anxiety during the pandemic, while an even larger number of those ages 18-24 have reported the same symptoms. Lockdowns, closures of such institutions as schools, colleges, and churches, confusing or contradictory information from public officials, and fear-mongering by some in the media have clearly impacted many of us.

Meanwhile, alarming news appears daily on all fronts. Troubled by failure for decades, our schools now appear in free fall away from the real purpose of education. The debt load of our country is exploding by the day, our southern borders are in turmoil, and many wonder how long our nation can survive the political and social turmoil that engulfs us.

It’s no wonder so many of us have fallen prey to sadness and despair.

But a path exists that can lead us out of this darkness. That way begins with the hopes and possibilities displayed in the masthead that flies over this section of The Epoch Times: Life & Tradition.

Life

Here we are, whirling around the sun and riding through the universe, on a planet that not only sustains us, but that has allowed the human race to thrive. Throughout our history, we humans have suffered our portion of horrors, most of them self-inflicted, but we’ve also triumphed again and again over adversity.

In the last century alone, we’ve conquered many once-fatal diseases, we’ve sent men to the moon, and we have invented electronic devices for communication unimaginable to our grandparents. Here in America, we live in climate-controlled homes, consume exotic foods from around the world, live decades longer than our ancestors, drive farther in a day than a citizen in 1850 might travel in a month, and send messages via email that even 30 years ago would have required days for delivery.

We live material lives that make Renaissance princes look like paupers, yet sometimes we seem oblivious to our wealth of luxuries. All too often we become so overwhelmed by worry and fear that we forget to take pleasure in the sheer exuberance of living.

Tradition

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him,” G.K. Chesterton wrote, “but because he loves what is behind him.” Those words carry a double meaning: the soldier loves his home and family, yes, but also the land and culture that produced him. It may sound hokey to our postmodern ears, but the soldiers who fought in the world wars of the 20th century believed at some basic level that they were defending American values, that they were doing battle for “Mom, the flag, and apple pie.”

The past hundred years have seen worldwide destruction of such traditions. Totalitarian governments in such places as Russia and China stamped out the ancient folkways of their people while other countries such as the United States and the nations of Europe have trampled on tradition through legal machinations and movements such as cancel culture.

These ongoing revolutions have driven God from the public square, abolished the old moral tenets and replaced them with the idea that everything is relative, and substituted narcissistic emotions for logic and critical thinking.

But all is not lost.

Rejecting the Bad and the Ugly

Those two banners—life and tradition—may be a bit ragged and worn, but they can still offer us hope.

We can begin to push away the black clouds of our present age by refusing to listen to those nags and critics who constantly demand we change our lives, even the fundamentals of human nature, while twisting truth to fit an agenda. We can refuse hatred and negativity wherever they may occur. We can love life and tradition, and reject the views of those who seek to diminish or darken them.

Our culture is shot through with this pessimism. An example: Listen to some of the music aimed at our young people—rap or contemporary pop—and you’ll discover enough venom and gloom in these lyrics to transform Pollyanna into a surly misanthrope. Compare those songs to ones written from 1900 to the early 1960s, and the difference is night and day—and that cliché is intentional.

If we wish to lead lives of hope, we must turn our backs on the dark parts of our culture.

Embracing the Good

To reject the bleak picture of our society is only part of the solution to our crisis in mental health. We must also celebrate life. We must keep our loved ones close, enjoy a glass of wine with friends, find entertainment in the hurly-burly of our streets and neighborhoods, celebrate weddings or the birth of a baby, honorably perform our duties at work or in the home, and giving a helping hand to those who need it.

And we must also celebrate and cherish our traditions, both those of the public square and those belonging to us alone. These are the things—Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, the annual trip to the coast with the family, sit-down suppers with loved ones—that help make us more fully human.

Let’s embrace life and tradition, and fight the battles in our culture as cheerful, stouthearted warriors.

Jeff Minick
Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C. He is the author of two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust on Their Wings,” and two works of non-fiction, “Learning as I Go” and “Movies Make the Man.” Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va. See JeffMinick.com to follow his blog.