No, this is not a treatise on m-m-my generation. This is not about me in so much as anything I write can actually not be about me. (Blogging is, after all, a self-spectator sport, oui?) Anyway, this is really about the generations coming after us, the members of which are populating the families who move in our orbits.
This weekend, we have been fortunate to host our beloved nephew, Adam, following his three-week "youth liberation camp" at Rowe Camp and Conference Center in Rowe, MA, a place which has earned mention previously here on DD. While Adam was here, we took a road trip to lovely Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA, and paid our respects to my ever-lovely god-daughters, Victoria and Cassandra, who quickly accepted Adam as their older "god-cousin" and family member. The melding of two separate aspects of my life into a more seamless whole was like opening a door of family and kinship. This also got me thinking about the brilliant Sabina, Adam's older sister who is currently at the prestigious New Jersey Governor's School, a four-week creative arts camp for the best and brightest high school students in the state, not to mention my niece Caroline in Atlanta, and Mary's brother's wonderful children, Patrick and Raquel, and last but not least our son, Rene, a child of light himself. Add to this list the many other children connected to us by some common thread and a portrait of the newer generations emerges.
Many naysayers might denigrate the youth of today in terms of their use or alleged addiction to media of all kinds, including television, the Internet, iPods, etcetera. Many say that the younger generations lack the attention span to accomplish great things and move the society forward. Everywhere there are warnings that today's youth are swirling in a media-saturated mire of consumerism and self-satisfaction. (And who, may I ask, is responsible for that mire's creation, dear Readers?)
But I'll tell you, folks, there is a level of savvy, emotional development, and cultural knowledge among the young today that can rival or exceed that of any previous generation. While I will agree that childhood obesity is at epidemic proportions and perhaps fewer children are able to negotiate iambic pentameter as did their predecessors (did I ever really get iambic pentameter, anyway?), the current generation moving its way up the educational ladder has a level of media/cultural sophistication and global awareness unmatched by previous cohorts. This "global village" of ours has never been so connected, information has never been so readily available, and I hypothesize that the brightest minds of this generation will transform the world in far-reaching and profound ways, hopefully undoing some of the devastating damage wrought during the previous century.
When I hear pundits and others denounce the young and hold them responsible for their current state---however that state is perceived---I remind myself that this generation did not grow up in a vacuum. This generation did not create cable television, fast food, the Internet, the iPod, and instant messaging. Each generation simply accepts the tools it is handed and makes their generational bed with what is at its disposal. Previous generations were handed "Father Knows Best", the transistor radio, LP records, internal combustion engines. What was accomplished by those tools falling into those cohorts' hands is a story that fills many of our libraries and bookstores today.
What I see is a globalizing society, for better or worse, with people of myriad cultures interwoven by electronic communication, global travel, and the inexorable breaking down of barriers which previously disallowed the occurence of certain human interpersonal transactions. While no one in their right mind in 1921 could have envisioned, for instance, the simultaneous worldwide broadcast of, let's say, the Live8 concerts around the world and the potential impact of such an event, perhaps the founders of the United Nations on June 6, 1945 had an inkling of what a more united world would look like (and I do not mean Benneton, folks!). That said, the reverberations of each generation's accomplishments reverberate through the milennia for what many native peoples might be seen as seven generations.
I, for one, am so heartened by what I see in those younger than myself. Like any ageing fart, I of course wish to pass on my "invaluable" advice and can sometimes lapse into worry that, in my golden years, all hell will break loose and no one'll be competently minding the ship. That said, there is a heart and spirit existing out there, growing daily, that moves me to write these words tonight. While Karen Berquist of Over the Rhine has sang, "Sometimes I think this world's too fucked up for any first-born son", I also know that those sons and daughters born into this world are the key to its eventual and probable redemption. Tonight I surrender to the fact that as my generation's sun begins to set, there will be many others worthy, willing, and able to assume the helm. Let's leave them something to hang onto, shall we?