I picked up a copy of Douglas Coupland’s Generation X in a charity shop, at a price that I couldn’t resist. The spine wasn’t even broken, which is a tragedy. It is an old favourite from a more innocent time. But reading it again it is really quite surprisingly contemporary. It is the story of three young people who drop out of their McJobs (Coupland coined that term of course) and go to the desert to tell stories and make sense of their lives. And that theme of the desert struck me. Coupland is so post-religion that I’m sure he has not the faintest comprehension of the desert tradition in Christianity, and nevertheless he articulates some very ancient ideas.
“that this is why the three of us left our lives behind us and came to the desert—to tell stories and to make our own lives worthwhile tales in the process.”
Despite the self importance, and noisy egotism of the city, if we are to make sense of our lives and find meaning that can only come from within, and silence and nature are our guides. It means giving up much of what we once thought was important, and most challenging of all, giving up on our need for the approval of others.
“We live small lives on the periphery; we are marginalized and there’s a great deal in which we choose not to participate. We wanted silence and we have that silence now…. Our systems had stopped working, jammed with… the endless stress of pointless jobs done grudgingly to little applause. We had compulsions that made us confuse shopping with creativity, to take downers and assume that merely renting a video on a Saturday night was enough. But now that we live here in the desert, things are much, much better.”