Friday, September 03, 2010

The Good Old Days

My middle son turns 23 today. My youngest will be 21 next month and my eldest, now 26 has a son of his own with another child on the way. All this has happened before I turn 48 later this year. I guess that means I’m getting old, but I don’t feel old. And except for the grandchildren, this was all foreseeable – one only need do the math. But I don’t recall ever putting in the effort to do that math… it kind of catches me off guard every time one of these milestones rolls around. My kids are not kids anymore and have not been for some years now. Sure, they’re kids in the same respect anyone 25 years my junior is, but at the same time, these are adults we are talking about. And each has made some very adult decisions that carried with them both negative and positive consequences. It was not that long ago that I was their age – I didn’t forget.

In some ways, however, it seems like a thousand years ago. So much has changed in the world in such a short time. My children never played a record or actually “dialed” a phone. They have never been subjected to black and white TV and the handful of stations that came into the home from an antenna. And this, we are told, is progress. They grew up with the Internet and are as used to it being an everyday part of their lives as my bicycle was in my youth. By the time they were in the latter stages of grade school the paper route had gone the way of the dinosaur and afterschool daycare was a necessary evil. Although technological evolution is inevitable, it feels as though it is moving at a logarithmic rate… or maybe it’s because I have a larger frame in which to view it from. Perhaps mine is no different from every other generation in the recent, post-industrial, past, each looking back from a half-century of experience to the “good old days.”

My life will come to an end well before this century comes to a close. If I live to be 100, I’ll see 2062 and no more, and that is a big “if.” But my kids should see the latter part of this century and their children have a good shot at celebrating the turn of the next; I can only imagine what kind of world they will be living in. The human race is unique among all the species in that we plan not only for our own future, but that of our posterity as well. We have been working to make the world a better place for millennia all the while knowing that the immediate and short-term benefits we realize pale in comparison to what we are building for generations to come. The ever increasing pool of knowledge we have been filling for the past several thousand years is not just ours to benefit from now, but to contribute to for those that come long after we are all gone. Why?

And to be clear, it is not just the technology that is advancing at an alarming rate. We are also growing culturally into a world-society, though with the wars and conflicts that we seem to pass through with great regularity, it could be argued that we are still somewhat primitive when it comes to getting along. Still, great strides have been made when it comes to tolerance and equality even if the current status is a long way from ideal. I am hopeful that with advances in human communication – and with the help of technology – there will come a time when my offspring will not be faced with conflict resolution through force. A lofty dream perhaps, but it is what we, as humans, have always worked towards – even if that security, at various points in our short history, was reserved for certain humans and not others. As the world grows smaller and as our population continues to grow, our children will have to find a means to work together – and I believe they will.

I have great hope that a better world awaits my young sons. I don’t know of any parent who feels any differently. But it won’t just happen; we have to continue to show the way even when that journey is an uphill climb. I have a vision of a world in which conflict and differences of opinion can be worked out by human communication, leaving the need for force as a lesson in the history books. It can happen – it’s going to have to or there won’t be anyone left to read those history books just a few generations down the line. The dinosaurs ran the store here for millions of years, we have been at the wheel just a few thousand. If we want to last as long as they did, we’d better learn to live together. Nothing can wipe us out faster than we can.

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