I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The end of meaning

This is the kind of story that initially sounds funny to me:

480-Pound Woman Dies After Six Years On Couch

STUART, Fla. -- A 480-pound Martin County woman has died after emergency workers tried to remove her from the couch where she had remained for about six years.

Gayle Laverne Grinds, 40, died Wednesday, after a failed six-hour effort to dislodge her from the couch in her home. Workers say the home was filthy, and Grinds was too large to get up from the couch to even use the bathroom....

Emergency workers had to remove some sliding glass doors and lift the couch, with Grinds still on it, to a trailer behind a pickup truck. Removing her from the couch would be too painful, since her body was grafted to the fabric. After years of staying put, her skin had literally become one with the sofa and had to be surgically removed....

But let's think about this story. How many years ago did this woman give up on life? When did any significance and meaning become banal and uninteresting? In many ways she died years before her physical body quit. Did she find any meaning in anything as she lay on the couch day after day after day? Did she find small pockets of meaning in television?

And what causes a person to give up? To completely check out........Was she a defragmented soul? Did she feel lost? Angry? Pain? Or just apathetic? Perhaps she had no feelings at all......

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Do we need a male Oprah?

I was listening to my sports talk radio guy, Colin Cowherd, who took it upon himself to be the male Oprah - to give several pointers to young guys who need help. His essential definition of a young guy who needs help is a dude in his twenties with a neck tatoo. So, he dished out various bits of hillarious advice for young guys, all of which were right on....well, except one suggestion: Leave the jersey at home. He was talking about the sports jerseys that guys wear around. This was the only point on which he was way off because I'm tellin' ya' I know how to rock the sports jerseys - when I wear the jerseys of my favorite sports teams and players the women flock, they can't get enough of it!.....but I digress....

Here's the question for all of you women out there (and I guess guys can answer too): Do the young men in American society and culture need a male Oprah?

Monday, March 26, 2007


Interesting post by Doug on coffee, culture, and Starbucks:

Podcasting the Stoic

Here is a short and fun podcast on the Stoic philosopher Seneca. It is narrated by Brian Johnson. He makes some interesting commentary. The comments he makes kind of reminds me of Tony Reali from the ESPN show, Around the Horn. Here's the link if you are interested:

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Final Four Piks

Going into this weekend's Great Eight round of games I am pleased to announce that all of my final four picks are still alive and well:


I really, really, really want to see Florida lose. So if they go down tomorrow and don't make it to the Final Four I will be happy. If they go to the Final Four and lose to Kansas then that would be, well, that would be fantastic.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Marriage Proposals Gone Wild

I ran across a hillarious blog on marriage proposals gone wrong at Kruse Kronicle:

It seems as though there is a website dedicated to the subject:

Some of these are brutal....I copied and pasted one that is particularly painful! The guy gets turned down even after writing her a song! Ouch!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Did God plan evil?

What did God do sans time?

Why do we say "sans" time? Because to say "before" time implies that there was time before time. So, we say "sans" time to try to be a bit more accurate, although it is difficult for our minds not to think in terms of a linear time frame.

What did God sit around thinking about? What went through his mind? What was God kicking around in his thoughts? Did things actually "go through" God's mind? Probably not, since when we think we think one thought after the other after the other after the other, etc. So, we think in time and through time. We require moments to build arguments. But, of course, if God is existing "sans" time, then he wasn't really "kicking" anything around....But we'll go with it just for sake of an interesting discussion...

We know that God was planning what he was going to do with all of creation. He was getting ready to create something. According to Scripture the plan of salvation was a part of this creation. Of course, this gets sticky because if God is planning to save then he must have also planned for a failure from which to save us from. We know from a few thousand or so years of history that this failure has to do with the moral condition: Evil exists in the world. So, the reasonable conclusion is that God was planning evil sans time.

Did God have to plan evil? Or is evil a necessary aspect of a finite creation?

One solution to this is to say that God didn't "create" evil, rather he granted human kind free will. Humanity used their free will for evil and consequently we've got bad things to deal with.

Fair enough. I respect that position, but I don't agree with it. I'll spare you the reasons.

Let's take another route to answering our question. What if good and evil are not really two separate entities? For some us this might sound absurd at first thought. In western philosophy and thinking we draw sharp dichotomies and make distinctions. Good is the opposite of evil. Evil is the opposite of good. Something is either good or it is evil. It cannot be both. Classical western logic systems usually have some basic and fundamental laws: the Law of Non-Contradiction, Law of the Excluded Middle, etc. Something cannot be both A and non-A. We generally apply the same reasoning rule of thumb to morality: Either good or evil.

What if there is a closer connection between the two? That good cannot exist without evil or that evil cannot exist without good. That they are co-dependent in some sense.

How does good take on meaning without evil? And how does evil take on meaning without good. They feed off of each other. Those who feel most strongly about fighting evil are usually those who feel most strongly about the good. If you experience evil in a profound way you will typically have a more profound appreciation for the good. In this sense they certainly compliment each other, while simultaneously oppossing each other.

So, if God is to plan good he also simultaneously plans evil. To instantiate a world with morality necessitates the potential for both good and evil as it will occur in space-time.

This is not really an apologetic....well, maybe it is to some extent...but primarily I am interested in exploring the nature of good and evil and whether there is a closer connection than previously thought.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Bad Boys of Philosophy

This is a humorous look at the weird and quirky ways of a few famous philosophers:

You've got to feel bad for Peter Abelard, don't you??? Especially if you're a guy - ouch....

Monday, March 19, 2007

Are you sick?

It's kind of that time of year where people get sick.

My roommate was moping around the house this weekend, wasting his life away sleeping and wallowing in self-pity because he had somekind of a virus. Meanwhile, I'm up and running - getting stuff done, enjoying the basketball games, getting out and enjoying life, yada, yada....And all of this while I'm running on two nights last week of only a couple hours of sleep. I mean, there were two nights I just couldn't sleep and I got maybe 2 or 3 hours each night.

So, here I am working overtime on the weekend and moving through life, while my pitiful roommate is laying around fighting off a virus.

Yesterday evening he comes home with bags full of fruits. He never eats healthy fruits. But all of a sudden a grocery bag full of good fruits??? Yea, he's trying to be like me. I eat like a health nut: Fruits for breakfast and greens for lunch - almost everyday without fail. Any surprise why I don't get sick and I can run on less sleep? Not at all. But I take flack for it all the time! I even take flack from my pitiful roommate (when he isn't laying around fighting off viruses!). Everybody loves to take shots at the "health nuts" until they get sick and their health nut buddies are running around making it happen....sheeeeezzzzz.......give me a break!!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Qohelet and Deconstruction

I am excited for this Friday's Evangelical Theological Society Midwest Regional Meeting. Unfortunately, for the second consecutive year in a row your's truly submitted a paper that was turned down for a reading.....Yes, I hear the violin music playing...and, yes, I will take cheese with my whine....In any case, I thought I would take a break from wallowing in self-pity (see my previous post on narcissism!) and post this year's failed submission for your thoughtful consideration.


This paper is only the beginning of my research on Qohelet (the book of Ecclesiastes). I am fascinated by it because I see many themes which contemporary philosophy is exploring, or should explore as far as I am concerned. One of these themes is deconstruction. In this paper I make an attempt to show that Qohelet is deconstructing the human experience. I do that by exegesis of the key word hebel (the "b" is pronounced more like a "v" in Hebrew, and if you really want to sound Semitic you will might sound the "h" with a gutteral!) and showing that at bottom hebel is functioning as a destabilizing device.

There is by no means a consensus on the study of hebel, or even on anything related to Qohelet for that matter. So, in this current paper I take a look at Douglas Miller's recent work and pit it against Michael Fox's highly respected studies. The result is a tension on interpreting hebel. Hebel, as I mentioned, is the key word in Qohelet's thought and is sometimes translated as "meaningless" or "vanity", etc. It occurs nearly forty times and has produced varying interpretations. Fox, on the one hand, wants us to preserve a common meaning to hebel, while Miller leans more towards seeing diversity to the term (but also wants us to see hebel as a unifying symbol). This is an important and key philosophical contrast: Is there one thing that is true of all experiences in this world, or is Qohelet leveling different critiques as he examines different aspects of the human condition.

I believe I have an interesting solution to this tension, and I find it by interpreting hebel as a destabilizing device that is used in a deconstruction of the human experience.

Enjoy and don't forget to leave a comment.


How ironic. If we look at the vast spectrum of human history we are nothing. If we look at the vast spectrum of eternity we are even less.

And at each moment we are merely one amongst 6 billion or so.

What is man that you are mindful of him?

Yet each moment contains within it such an incredible amount of potential. We are influencing eternity with each blink of the eye.

How ironic. Each moment so full of meaning and potential. And yet each moment is at the same time so meaningless. To be a person of perpective forces us to bounce back and forth between these two poles.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Selection Sunday

March Madness, baby!

Here is a link to the brackets:

I have a Yahoo group that I have been running for a few years where you can go head to head with me and a few others. If you want to fill out some brackets and be a part of my elite bracket group just drop me an email (erdman31@gmail.com) and I will send an invite to your email address. (No money involved - so it is safe for you if you are a compulsive gambler, like my friend Danny.)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Derrida deconstructs forgiveness

In this video, Derrida makes the case for the impossibility of forgiveness. For those of you unfamiliar with Derrida this short video clip is something of an example of deconstruction.

Let me paraphrase Derrida, while extending his thought a bit:

Forgiveness cannot be "pure" forgiveness unless you are forgiving the unforgivable.

If you are forgiving something that is a “forgivable” offense, then it seems to imply that there really wasn’t anything significant to forgive. Or, we might say that you were not wounded deeply enough or not offended enough. For example, if someone slaps me on the face but “it really didn’t hurt all that bad” then have I really forgiven that person? Well, some might say that I have forgiven them. But on the other hand it also appears that I was not wounded very deeply.

The only time that forgiveness is “pure” forgiveness is the time when we are so deeply offended and so intimately violated that the crime is “unforgivable.” Only at the moment that we run up against an offense so deep that we cannot forgive it – only then do we have the opportunity to grant “pure” forgiveness.

Derrida also distinguishes between "reconciliation" and "forgiveness." Reconciliation usually has some goal in mind: That we can be happy together, or stop killing each other in wars, or experience some positive emotional/therapeutic effect, etc. Reconciliation involves some sort of calculation. Reconciliation is a very good thing, but for Derrida reconciliation does not equal "pure forgiveness."

Is Derrida “pure” nonsense? Or is there something to learn here?

Friday, March 09, 2007

On Meditation - Biblical Perspectives

In response to a question from Melody here are a few passages on meditation.

First, there are the Psalms. These are the poetic texts that are by their very nature conducive to an attitude of reflection.

I list a choice few here:
Psalm 77 encourages meditation upon the works and actions of God:
11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. 12 I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. 13 Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? 14 You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. 15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
Note also the presence of the phrase "Selah", which occurs throughout the Psalms as a pausing point, the implication that one should slow their thoughts to contemplate what has been spoken.

Psalm 48 indicates a spirit of reflection upon the love of God:
Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.

Psalm 119 is a prolonged, spiritual reflection upon what it means to love the Law of Yahweh and to reflect and meditate upon it.

Psalm 63 is meditation upon God, himself:
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

Next there is an interesting passage in Genesis 24:63 that indicates that Isaac went out into a field to meditate, or to reflect.

Now, Melody's question was not so much a question about meditation, per se, but she questioned specifically whether we should go so far as to empty our minds. My suggestion has been that for many Christian's in western society our minds are so fixated upon the hectic movement of life and so distracted by so many diverse voices and images that it might not be so absurd to suggest that we take time to empty our minds of the clutter and to make room for an encounter with God.

Now, admittedly, the above passages do not necessarily support my position of mind-emptying. However, they do support the reasonable conclusion that meditation is crucial to the Christian life. Whether or not a Christian goes so far as to empty their mind, as I am suggesting, there is little doubt that a deep life of contemplation and reflection is indispensable. To be quite frank, American pop-Christianity has as many resources (or more) available to it than at any time in the last two thousand years. And yet is it really a stretch to say that we are still as superficial and weak-minded as the rest of the world? Statistically speaking we seem to divorce just as quickly, or are just as prone to sexual failure and compulsive disorders as anyone else. Is it possible we struggle with the same things as everyone else because we have failed to cultivate a life of meditation? I'm going to suggest that this is, in fact, the case. I do not stand as a judge, just as an example of failure.

To empty one's heart of all of the things in this world that we love and cherish, and to connect with the person of God, himself, is the most necessary and also the most frequently neglected practices in Christendom. Everything else can be faked or fabricated.

I have one more Scripture, however, that I have been keeping up my sleeve. It comes from my favorite book, Ecclesiastes. The encouragement here is to speak less and to "listen" more:

Ecclesiastes 5 (NIV) Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, "My vow was a mistake." Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God.

What does it mean to "stand in awe" of God? What does it feel like to be listen? I'm not 100% sure....however, I would suggest it has something to do with a sense of receptivity that is based on a mind emptied of distractions.

Winter fun

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Meditation and Mysticism

What is the role of mystical or so-called "New Age" meditation techniques? Such is the subject of an article, "Doorways to Deception?" by my college buddy, Kary Oberbrunner (who is now an author, speaker, pastor, etc.). He explores various "postmodern" ways of worship that all center on various forms of meditation. He presents pros and cons for three different meditative techniques and then wraps up with a conclusion. In this post I just want to explore a bit the role of meditation and mystic techniques for the Christian faith. (In a future post I will take issue with what I believe is Kary's "cop-out" conclusion!)

Criticisms of meditative/New Age worship techniques

Let's start with the negative. Here are some of the thoughts of those within Christian circles who are suspicious of these mystical approaches to worship:

"Far from simple or sacred, contemplative prayer is a codified technique which constructs a psychological and spiritual state of awareness designed to unleash unconscious forces and which typically encourages a narcissistic turning-inward and preoccupation with self-awareness, consciousness-raising and the achieving of preternatural experiences."

"Participants are being groomed so as to make future instruction on mystical meditation more palatable," argues Brian Flynn, a New Age expert, author of Running Against the Wind and founder of One Truth Ministries (onetruthministries.com). "A form of occult mysticism is practiced with the hope and intention of gaining a mystical experience. It is a form of mantra-style meditation."

"In spite of using such terms as Christian yoga, Tibetan, Buddhist or Taoist, yoga remains yoga and means inner, mystery teachings, and practices of each of these religions. The separatist sectarianism arises because of hatred and fanaticism the members of religious communities [i.e. evangelicals] have not got rid of."
[Above quotations taken from

Can a Christian learn from other religious perspectives?

This, I think, is the question I would like to first raise. There are other questions related to this: Is it bad to learn from other religions? Is it wrong for a Christian to take a lesson from another religious viewpoint? Or to "borrow" a meditative practice?

Let's try to get at what is at stake here. For some believers it is simply a matter of "all truth is God's truth", so if a Christian finds something good in another viewpoint s/he should take it and "make it captive for Christ." But others have a difficult time being so casual. The thought of "learning" from another religion makes us very uneasy. What is is that makes us uncomfortable with this? I believe it is a perceived threat to the exclusivity of Christianity. Let me explain.

There are many who study religion from a secular perspective. These folks have traditionally appreciated the positive benefits that religion provides and look to the common good and truths in various belief systems and believing communities. They have tended to come to the conclusion that all religions have certain commonalities and that such common ground is reason to put them all on more or less equal ground. That is, no one religion should be given exclusive privilege, but all should be appreciated for their positive contribution to humanity.

I believe that such a viewpoint has now been canonized in pop culture through the Oprah-ization of western culture. The pop-analogy is that all roads lead to the same place, they just have different paths and roads to get to that common place. The point is to find the religion that "works for you". I've read suggestions that one should have a "meditation room" complete with Scriptures from various religious traditions that might speak to you at any given time.

I think that many Christians are rightly disturbed and feel threatened by our western pop-culture of religious relativism. Hence, they feel that if we were to ever "learn" from another religion it would jeapordize the exclusive claims of Christianity. In John 14:6, for example, Jesus states, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me." In other words, only one road leads to God.

A Culture of Consumerism

But before we wrap this up with a neat and tidy answer I would like to raise another issue. We live in a consumer-oriented culture. This consumer culture drives us. Our lifestyles do not allow for our minds to relax and concentrate or meditate. We are a society geared towards the task-driven. We can accomplish more in a day than other cultures can accomplish in a week or a month. We use our PDA's to schedule our days down to the minute. We push ourselves to accomplish more and more. We work 60 or 80 hours week to complete a major project, only to have another crop up to take its place. We lead the world in our production capacities, and this is the upside.

The downside is insomnia, broken relationships, and more to the point of this post we find that our minds are full and unable to relax and meditate.

Is there a specific state of mind that is more conducive to commune with God? If our lives and minds are full, is it possible that there is little room for the Spirit of God? Is it too bold to say that it is impossible to connect with God on the deepest levels if we do not take prolonged periods of silence and meditation to clear our minds?

This is not simply a mystical point, but we can take an example from everyday relationships. Can a man develop a deep relationship with a woman if he does not take time to concentrate on her? Freeing his mind of other concerns like the reports due the next day at work or Sports Center and Barry Bonds on the television? Our personal relationships require a prolonged concentration on the individual to the exclusion of all other concerns. To fail to reach deeper and deeper into the heart of your Significant Other risks allowing the relationship to become a relationship that is almost exclusively functional and pragmatic.

Let's translate this analogy back into our discussion of Christian mysticism...I would suggest that the vast majority of believers in our conservative circles (myself included) "lose their first love" because their God becomes a god of functionality. This is particularly true of our leaders. The true God becomes a god-of-the-gaps who exists to function as a prayer-answerer or moral compass or a theological/philosophical foundation. But in the process of translating God into a god of functionality most of us have lost the personal encounter. A god of functionality is great for movements, building churches, preaching sermons, and teaching in Christian colleges and universities, but one can gain the world and still lose one's soul if there is no personal encounter.

For this reason I would suggest that meditative practices absolutely must be a vibrant part of the personal and community life of Christians. I believe that our current culture of consumer-driven careers/relationships/entertainment/eating/shopping/etc. demands an emptying-of-the-mind process. I'm not suggesting that one casually accept any technique, however, something must be done to bridge the gap between the god of functionality and the Living, Consuming Fire.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Baudrillard is dead.

A leading postmodern theorist, Jean Baudrillard is dead. And Jaques Derrida also passed away in recent years.

Perhaps it is interesting to consider what postmodern theory is and what its impact is and will be in the future. What is the impact of postmodern theory on western culture? On Christian doctrine/theology? Or on church practice?

If you have read through my blog with anything that resembles a passing interest you could easily guess that I have never perceived postmodern theorists as the threats that many of my fellow conservatives have so violently reacted against. In my opinion, these extreme reactions have simply played into the hands of po-mo writers who take a certain twisted delight in raising the ire of the establishment.

But what of their ideas and contributions? Will they last? Or will they simply be an inconvevience? Does postmodernity signal the end of the Enlightenment/Modern projects, or was it simply a bump in the road? All good questions....

Many of us in conservative circles perceive theorists like Baudrillard as a threat to some of our core values of truth, objectivity, capitalism, etc. Liberals tend to see the same thing and seize on the perceived opportunity to discredit traditional institutions...But on my reading (which is still very much a work in process) the main thing I see is that it is difficult if not impossible to fix “the right answer.” That there is, perhaps, space. And yet this is not to say that we do not continually fix things. The pragmatic nature of life demands that we fix things like economic/political theory, absolute truth, Christian doctrine, etc. And so it is good for us to “fix” things, and to "close" our theories. It is good to say that we have arrived at the right answer.....And yet as soon as we fix things it opens up the possibility of “play,” and there will always be someone who comes along to find the openness in the systems and institutions that we have closed...Just a few of my thoughts on the matter of postmodern theorists...

Here are a few quotations about Baudrillard from articles reporting his death:

Jean Baudrillard, the French sociologist and philosopher and critic of globalisation and consumerism, has died in Paris at the age of 77.

Baudrillard died on Tuesday at his home in Paris after a long illness, said Michel Delorme, of the Galilee publishing house.

Baudrillard was a prolific writer and renowned photographer who first attracted worldwide attention in 1991 with the deliberately provocative claim that the Gulf War "did not take place".

He was one of Europe's leading postmodernist thinkers known for his provocative commentaries on consumerism.

[From http://mwcnews.net/content/view/13033&Itemid=1]

Baudrillard argued that mass media and modern consumerist society had built up such a complex structure of symbols and simulated experience that it was no longer possible to comprehend reality as it might actually exist. [From http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=365872007]

Baudrillard first attracted worldwide attention in 1991 with his deliberately provocative book The Gulf War Did Not Take Place in which he argued that neither side could claim victory by the end of the war and that the conflict had changed nothing on the ground in Iraq.

Nothing was as it appeared in the war, he said, claiming that the public’s - and even the military’s - perception of the conflict came filtered through images from the media. As a result, the conflict was best seen as a simulation - Saddam Hussein was not defeated; the US-led coalition had scarcely battled the Iraqi military and did not really win, since the political state in Iraq altered little after the carnage.

[From http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article1482711.ece]

News of the death of Jean Baudrillard provokes mischievous and possibly disrespectful thoughts about how he would have reported his own passing. "It never happened" would be the obvious choice. For those of us who didn't know him personally, the "death of Baudrillard" is an entirely media event, one which we only observe through the filter of news, the internet and television. To believe otherwise is to fail to recognise the nature of our "hyperreal" society, in which we are no longer able to distinguish between reality itself and its simulation....

The recurring theme of Baudrillard's work is that we live in a world in which representation and simulation have come to dominate over what was once thought of as reality, to the extent that our reality now often is our simulation of it. That's why it is now not only possible to be "famous for being famous", but it's what many young people actively have as an ambition. Because of thinkers like Baudrillard, we have come to think better and deeper about such issues, which is why we should be more prepared to forgive him for his many excesses.

There is some irony in the fact that many of those quickest to dismiss Baudrillard don't actually have any knowledge of his philosophy at all, but only secondhand representations of it. Perhaps the oft-derided Baudrillard got the last laugh, after all.

[From http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/julian_baggini/2007/03/the_shadow_of_his_former_self.html]

There are also some interesting links at Ktismatics:

Monday, March 05, 2007


Have you guys heard of this? It's a crack pot classified ad website in the San Francisco bay area. It's a freebie, cheap looking website that is run by some middle aged guy in a two bedroom apartment and it is costing newspapers millions of dollars in ad revenue. To reiterate: It is a very cheesy and cheap looking site. It even has a hippy looking peace sign as its icon. The guy who runs it is doing fine financially, but he has turned down huge money from people who have offered to buy the site. The reason? He doesn't want them to turn the website into something it is not. So, he's turning down becoming a millionaire to run this crack pot website out of his two bedroom apartment. A great story.

Check it out: http://sfbay.craigslist.org/
Look at the personal ads - very funny. There is a "Strictly Platonic" section with people who are looking for companions to watch soap operas with. There is also this guy who is looking for a female hiking partner who is "fit" to be "just friends, but who knows, maybe more"! It's great.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The narcissism of Generation Y

A recent article came out on a major study among college students and their narcissistic tendencies. Here are a few clips:

By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer Tue Feb 27, 12:32 AM ET
NEW YORK - Today's college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors, according to a comprehensive new study by five psychologists who worry that the trend could be harmful to personal relationships and American society.

Twenge and her colleagues, in findings to be presented at a workshop Tuesday in San Diego on the generation gap, examined the responses of 16,475 college students nationwide who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006.

The standardized inventory, known as the NPI, asks for responses to such statements as "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place," "I think I am a special person" and "I can live my life any way I want to."

The researchers describe their study as the largest ever of its type and say students' NPI scores have risen steadily since the current test was introduced in 1982. By 2006, they said, two-thirds of the students had above-average scores, 30 percent more than in 1982....

"Unfortunately, narcissism can also have very negative consequences for society, including the breakdown of close relationships with others," he said...

Twenge, the author of "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before," said narcissists tend to lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism and favor self-promotion over helping others.....
[Taken from http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070227/ap_on_re_us/self_centered_students_1]

Ok, so since I'm under 30 I suppose that I am a tweener - between Gen X and Gen Y. Perhaps I have some of the narcissistic tendencies of Gen Y....hhhhmmmm....well, I don't know that I was ever surrounded with an overabundance of self-esteem talk...sob, sob, woe is me! That's why I'm so screwed up!! My parents didn't say enough nice things about me!!!.....All right, so maybe I am a bit narcissistic, but who isn't these days...

What I find interesting about narcissism is the inability to form close relationships. I've had several narcissistic friends over the years ranging in levels of severity (severe narcissism to more mild varieties), and the more severe the narcissism the greater the impossibility of forming close relationship bonds. It's for real. Narcissistic people tend to keep close score on their relationships, and if they think that you are not contributing as much to the relationship as they are they start to become very suspicious. This works, but only as long as two people both have the same scoring system. If you are using a different system and you score some points for yourself and I am using a different scoring system and I don't give you credit, then we've got problems! And, of course, if you are narcissistic by nature then you tend to over score your own contributions and underscore the contributions of others. After all, you've got this sneaking suspicion that people ought to be giving to you just because it is fun to give to ME.

As you can imagine, if there are large numbers of people in society who feel like they are contributing more to their relationships than anyone else than you have a situation like we've got in United States culture today. Relationships tend to be of the short-term variety and seem like they end because of a somewhat minor squabble that really just represents a lot of other little minor squabbles that all went unresolved....

Another thought is that I wonder if this study is less about a specific generation or social demographic and whether it might be more of a reflection of western culture as a whole. (But here I go, again, blaming the parents!) I have encountered incredibly large groups of narcissistic adults whose general life-course has reflected a drastic me-centered view of the universe. I think that it has taken a very narcissistic group of parents to produce the most narcissistic generation to date. And wouldn't narcissistic trends help explain why the majority of adults get divorced at least once?

Here is a link where I comment and interact with this idea a bit more:
(I'm sure you will want to visit this link because, after all, who wouldn't want to hear what I have to say about this issue.)