I’ve been (on and off) blogging here for over a decade now, starting when my son, Little Satis, was only seven years old. He’s hardly little now, and going to college this coming fall, and as he’s grown, I’ve seen consciousness and insight develop in him in a way that enlightens me – and depresses me.
Youth has always had its cynicism, it’s bleak worldview and rage against unfairness; think back to your own, whether it be from the 60s, or just this past decade, and you’ll understand, in the popular culture of the day, that youth has always rebelled against the mainstream put forth by our forebears. From hippies to punks, we’ve always said that our parents’ generation was worse than ours, and that we, of course, were going to be different.
How true that change came to be is debatable; every young generation grows up eventually, and whilst some remain dedicated to changing the world, most of us fall victim to the perpetual societal rat race, getting ourselves educated, employed, and, of course, eventually having children of our own, who tell us exactly what we told our parents twenty years before.
So the cycle continues, but what I’ve seen – and learned – from today’s youthful generation is that there is a deeper sense of doom, of futility, than anything I’ve ever known before. When I was young I was depressed; I hated the world and I hated myself, and I wondered at the point of it all. And although I felt at the time that life was pointless, that we were all doomed to suffer and die, it never had quite such a feeling of utter pointlessness to everything – that the world is doomed.
From politics to climate change, today’s new generation believes that it’s already too late; that nothing anyone can do will change the world. The ice caps aren’t melting; they’re already gone. Those in power are dedicated to remaining there, disallowing any new ideas or concepts. I’ve never seen a generation so unable to cope with the world their parents have left them, and it isn’t their fault. We screwed things up. Our inability to change has led to a world where – not in ten generations, not in a hundred years, but now – our children will see the ending of humanity.
And naturally, I wonder what advice I, the perpetuator of this decline, could have to offer my son, and his generation. After all, the hypocrisy is real; I drive a gas-fueled car, I leave the lights on, and I generally go through life without considering the world-ending calamities that he will inevitably have to live through. Perhaps by the time I’m sixty, or seventy, the world will end, but I’ll have had my life by then; he, in his midlife, will have had nothing.
But I believe there is still hope. You see, humans are – have always been – by nature destructive. We’ve destroyed our environment and ourselves since before we were able, as a species, to understand what we were doing. The fate of our planet may quite simply be that one day, there will be no humans left. We may very well kill ourselves off, sooner rather than later. But that is, in and of itself, nothing new to consider; death must always follow life. And to paraphrase Tolkien, it’s what we choose to do with the time we are given that truly matters.
Yes – the nature of the world and the planet we live on is of the utmost importance; without taking into consideration our impact on the world, and on each other, humanity is doomed to failure. But living for the sole sake of survival is, in my mind, an equal failure; it reduces us to animals, put on earth to reproduce and die. Survival doesn’t make us human; just as the longevity of a person’s life doesn’t define who they are, nor does the lifespan of the human race.
No; instead, it is what we do with our time as humans that will, ultimately define us. We are gifted the the ability to choose how we spend our lives, and ultimately, that will be our legacy. We must create more love than hate; we must make more art than war. Perhaps the world is doomed; but we can still choose how to go out.
So I’m just as proud of my son for choosing a music major, over some scientific environmental major; just as proud that he is choosing to make the world a better place through art, as through politics. And who knows? Perhaps humanity isn’t as forsaken as we think, because if enough people create beauty and love, we might find ourselves in a better place for it. Perhaps not the world we wanted, but a world in which we can, nonetheless, thrive.