My generation, Gen-x, is plagued with problems of commitment and relationship. In this sub-culture where perfecting my individual image consists of having the most unique music list and the coolest clothes, everyone else becomes my rival. Which means its almost impossible to experience vulnerability in relationship without shedding some of my personal power. The moment you open your heart you’ve lost all desirability in the eyes of the other person. This makes dating and intimacy virtually impossible.
In Luke 18:9-14, the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, the personal identity of the Pharisee is constructed at the expense of the other (see James Alison), especially the person who in that moment is being completely vulnerable. Gen-X is not only obsessed with individual image, as a group we have distanced ourselves from the dominant culture of the baby-boomers, which overshadows us. We use cynicism and irony in an attempt to construct another center of identity separate from the world of our parents.
However, just when we’ve constructed the coolest image for ourselves, we find ourselves trapped in loneliness and isolation, powerless to escape. Douglas Coupland, the author of Generation X, who perfected his identity as cultural critic and gen-X guru, made this confession:
“Now - here is my secret: I tell you with an openness of heart that I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God - that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.” (Coupland, Life After God, 359)
In his vulnerability Coupland has opened a crack into the soul of our entire generation. Those of us, whether we’re gen-xers or baby-boomers, who reject him, risk the same self-righteous attitude as the Pharisee, who scoffs at the vulnerability of the Tax Collector.
We may be slackers and under achievers, and yes we have attitude issues. At the same time we desperately want to unlock the prison we have created for ourselves, to bridge the isolation. Maybe Coupland’s confession is the place to start.