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Interpreting the Times

You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time- Luke 12:56

This potent question from St Luke’s gospel has never been more relevant than in the present. How exactly do we interpret the times we are living through? On the one hand, it has given us so much in terms of material prosperity and gain. Incomes and ambitions have doubled as both parents take on equal responsibility as bread winners, and consequently live lives of freedom, dignity and equality. On the other hand, it has taken away the physical proximity that family members once shared at mealtimes and during intimate conversations with each other. Children lost the security of parental and grand parental care as commercial day-care units took their place. The instantaneous sparkle of material prosperity simply outshone the steady glow of emotional and familial relationships in everyday life.

The immediate fallout of this has been the transition of relationships from real to virtual platforms, and, in some cases, this can have dire consequences. Take the case of Neha (names changed), a third year engineering student in one of the best professional colleges in Kerala. For her parents, George and Susan, this was a dream come true. They were both engineers and had worked very hard to be able to afford the best education for their daughter. All went well until Neha struck up a relationship with her classmate Ajith. Egged on by their peer group, and encouraged with innumerable likes on their facebook (fb) page, the couple were constantly together in public places as well as in private interludes. They took selfies to immortalize their most private moments and safeguarded these in password protected folders in their cellphones.

In no time, their techie friends moved in and the smartest among them successfully hacked into their account. The precious photographs were exposed on the net much to the delight of an entire group of fb friends who lost no time in ascertaining that the photographs went viral.

That Friday evening Neha quietly took permission from hostel to go home for the weekend. The next day , the police found her body in a hotel in Coimbatore. The suicide note was addressed to her parents asking them to forgive her for what she had done.

Neha’s story is not new; love tragedies have happened from time immemorial . But now, the arena is different, the villain is different and the tools used to strike the fatal blow are also different. Who was to blame for the loss of this innocent life? Could Neha’s rash and fatal decision be something to do with her upbringing, which had left her ill-equipped to face dire situations? Was the peer group to be blamed for making such callous use of technology?

It may be premature to predict or pass judgement on issues such as these. Rather we need to see how we can ensure that our children are firmly anchored as spiritually and emotionally mature individuals in a world subject to unpredictable changes. My own experience tells me that parental advice is not popular, and fails to provide an effective solution. However, there is one way that may work at least in the long term. Now, more than ever, it is important for us to grow our children with habits of prayer and bible reading. With such excellent opportunities for global education at school/college level, children leave their homes while still in their teens. From then on they face life and its problems on their own. When caught in the dilemma of decision making, I believe that this inculcation of biblical values will be a strong influence with them. It will be a guidepost that helps them choose the right path among many confusing shortcuts suggested by helpful but often misguided companions.

We have a huge responsibility to the next generation and very little time to carry it out We have to be role models. We need to spend the precious family moments meaningfully, filling them with gestures of care-giving, generosity, love and sacrifice towards all we associate with. Now, more than ever, where the sobering influences of the larger family unit are not available, we have the responsibility to give our children something of value, something for the long term, something that can never be taken away from them.

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