I am sixty-one years old. Throughout my life there have been isolated moments wherein an invention or a movement stopped me cold in my tracks. In those involuntary instances of physical and psychological stillness, when even spirit and soul are silenced, the only cognitive process I was aware of was a yearning. I would have an inescapable desire to live long enough to see the invention or movement evolve into its fullness—to reach its pinnacle.
As a child, the exploration of space captured my imagination. I longed to see a day when humankind would meet its celestial counterparts. The demise of NASA’s Apollo space program put an end to my childish interstellar visions. As I grew, the Great Society movement of the sixties captured my soul. I dreamt of a day when America would free herself from the shackles of poverty and racism. The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy killed those innocent, magnificent dreams. Cynicism filled my teen years as I navigated an uninspired life plagued by the Vietnam War, Watergate, and so much more.
In my late teens, the visions of political assassinations, societal failures, and war casualties were inescapable. They conspired and predisposed me to subconsciously adopt the modus operandi of the “Me” generation. It permeated me until my midtwenties. As the nineties approached, I traded the narcissism of the late seventies and eighties for the reemerging nihilistic philosophy. For that, I cannot be held to account. After all, by then the illusion of Reagan’s Shining City on a Hill had either evaporated or slid off its slimy slope and disappeared back into the muck and mire of the Machiavellian political minds from whence it was conjured. In vain, the first Bush administration attempted to revitalize Reagan’s exclusive city with the Thousand Points of Light foundation, which barely flickered—never to shine.
It took the rapid expansion of personal computers and the big bang expansion of the internet, fueled by the rise of Windows 95, to make me again wish for longevity. I have lived to see both grow from pre-Pentium processors and text-only websites, which when considering the Western world as a whole were used by few, to witness them become ubiquitous in offices and households . . . rendering privacy obsolete. The technological era is simultaneously liberating and imprisoning us. It’s the greatest love–hate affair humanity will ever face. The forecast for our tech relationship is bleak.
Realizing that the world will never escape from its technological Orwellian state, I became indifferent to the frequent internal question of “to be or not to be.” My apathy on arguably the most crucial question of the individual left me unable to put forth an argument for either Shakespearean position: “Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them. To die—to sleep.” Neither were a moot point for me as I became more certain that all would soon be lost. As Al Pacino’s character (Colonel Frank Slade) in Scent of a Woman said: “If the K-50s didn’t blow your brains out, sugar, sure as shit, was gonna.” In other words, because of humankind’s predisposition to fulfill prophecy and its inexplicable ability to ignore scientific clarity and consensus, either nuclear annihilation or climate change—both humanity’s handiwork—sure as shit will kill us. To say I had become a fatalist would be the greatest understatement of my life. I could find neither an invention nor a movement to inspire me. Then, in the nick of time, a Swedish teen arrived.
Self-inspiration or internal optimism are, at best, tricky things. And having either come from an external source leads to a fragile state of being. We have all been inspired and felt optimistic only to be let down by the sources (people, places, and things) that triggered our fleeting utopian vision. Its demise is never more disheartening than when emanating from the knowledge that we were bamboozled by political or social or spiritual leaders who were exposed, time after time, as being nothing more than self-absorbed charlatans.
Twenty-first-century adults will never be capable of uniting the worldwide tribe. This is so because they will always be viewed, justifiably, as being incapable of selfless purity in their motives. This stark reality has existed since the beginning of recorded time. The Book of Isaiah postulates that only through the innocence of a child will strife be exiled.
After fifteen-year-old Greta Thunberg solitarily sat down outside of the Swedish Parliament, school striking for climate, she was lifted to her feet by a worldwide uprising of children. Adults quickly followed. Children are leading the global movement of “climate strike.” They have united in solidarity behind Greta’s singularly pure message and motivation: to unite the world behind the science of climate change and demand that political and business leaders act on the science.
Greta may turn out to be the prophetic child referenced in the Book of Isaiah: “The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat; the calf and young lion and fatling will be together, and a little child will lead them.”
Time will tell if Greta’s unambiguous moral stance and message will lead the world to act before it’s too late. One thing’s for sure . . . I have a deep and unshakable desire to live long enough to find out.
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