“One is hardly tempted to lose confidence in the future after listening to a group of young people discussing the important problems of life. Of course the number who approach the future reflectively and with real appreciation for the issues involved in the readjustment of traditions to new situations is not large. There are not many such groups and even in these the number who really take part in the discussion is small.

“Nevertheless their wholesomeness is impressive. I can’t always withhold a sense of pity for them. With traditions crumbling and accepted standards inundated by a sea of moral relativity, they have a desperate task on their hands to construct new standards adequate for their happiness. There is always the temptation to be too rebellious or too traditional, to be scornful of the old standard even when it preserves obvious virtues, or to flee to it for fear of being lost in the confusion of new standards. Yet the best way of avoiding these dangers is to subject them to the scrutiny of a thoughtful group which knows how to discern the limitations of any position, old or new.”

— Reinhold Niebuhr, Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic (104)

Good encouragement; good caution.

Comment (1)

  1. Brian Hamilton (Post author)

    I would only wish that he had said “new standards faithful to the gospel” rather than “new standards adequate to their happiness.” Though if you work with a good Thomistic notion of the beatific vision as the ultimate human happiness, I suppose we’re not far off anyhow.

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