In the film Dr. Zhivago there is a scene in which Strelnikov and Yuri Zhivago discuss Yuri’s poetry and his future private life in Varykino, and two short sentences from that scene have burned a brand-like impression upon my mind. Strelnikov, in reacting to Yuri’s poetry and ambitions, says, “The personal life is dead in Russia. History has killed it.”
I wanted to reject the implications of these words, but deep inside I realized something of their meaning, not only for Russia but for all contemporary life. For we live in a world that seeks to strip us of the personal. The forces of our age appear to make life look absurd, to undermine the sense of purpose in existence.
What are the forces of depersonalization in our time? There are at least four, and the Christian believer can scarcely enumerate them without sensing the dramatic counter-force of the resurrection message.
One depersonalizing factor has been the scientific revolution. Science has given man the objective method, and man has been able to assert his power and authority over the materials of his world. The mountains have yielded their iron, gold, and uranium. The power of water has been harnessed. The oceans have been imprisoned within the lines of latitude and longitude, and the wonder of air has been captured by the isobars of the meteorologist. Man is the undisputed ruler of his world.
But this same tool with which he has split the atom and invaded space is also the weapon that threatens man himself. For he is a part of the world he seeks to dominate. The empirical process by which he elevates himself to the position of lord of the whole earth informs him that he is merely a temporary chemical episode in the life of one of the minor planets. Man has organized ...1
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