Friday, November 24, 2006

Who are you? Why are you here? Go back to Weddington!

My high school's biggest rival was Weddington High. The institution opened up after my sophomore year and took half of our class with it. They were richer than us, so they were better than us. Or at least they acted that way. And we did too.

At the first football game ever played between the two bastions of intellect and hormones, us Valleyites would yell, "Who are you? Why are you here? Go back to Weddington!" at anybody wearing green who would venture to our side of the stadium. What wit we had. I guess we thought that if we used enough condescension, this would suffice as an insult.

The night before Thanksgiving has recently become a reunion of sorts for the people who went to the two schools and graduated around my year, so Wednesday night I bumped into a lot of old friends at Phil and Tony's. It was really fascinating to see folks whom I had not seen in years and, more interestingly, to see the people we had become and are becoming.

My interactions with my old chums got me to thinking about how my generation will be viewed by history. Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation was defined by its response to World War II. Jack Kerouac's Beat Generation wrestled with restlessness and the need to be on the road. The '70's had the hippies. But who are we? Why are we here?

Looking back on the night, my generation seems sad - not pathetic sad but lack-of-happiness sad. Most people in high school didn't care about these existential questions, but even the ones who used to care have seemed to have surrendered to them. We have no answers. The people I interacted with in that room seemed empty, grasping for any purpose that might hide the fact that life seems to have no purpose.

We do community service not because we want to serve the poor but because we want to bolster our resumes to get into grad school so that we might become rich ourselves.

We have smiles on our faces but unhappy, hollow eyes.

We still suffer from the pain of romantic relationships that ended years ago.

We accept being underpaid now, knowing that our current sacrifice means we will eventually be joyfully overpaid for the majority of our lives.

We spend our social nights screaming brief, meaningless conversations over loud music that allow us to avoid any kind of substantial human interaction.

We find passion in politics, a passion that manifests itself in hatred for the other team rather than in love for those whom our policies claim to help.

We make alcohol, and the avoidance it provides when used in high quantities, a must-have for any occasion.

Anytime one tries to place a label on a generation, generalizations are unavoidable. I understand there are lots of exceptions to this particular situation I encountered Wednesday night, lots of people who have found a purpospe in life beyond self-comfort and the facade of certainty. Yet, these folks seem hidden. The bar is the face of our generation, as we mold ourselves into who we will be. The Pacific islands created the Greatest Generation, and Route 66 grounded the Beat Generation. The late night/early morning bar seems to provide the setting of this generation. What that says about us, I don't know. But it's fascinating.

Who are we? Why are we here? We don't seem to have answers to these questions. I'm fascinated by the answers that history will give for us.

7 comments:

Chase said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff said...

couldn't agree more...

It's sad and scary at the same time.

Brian Humphries said...

First, I found your answer the the "Nature Boy" question. Turns out Flair adopted it from the original Nature Boy Buddy Rogers, who wrestled in the 60's. He got the name from a Nat King Cole song about a strange man who said the greatest gift of all is to "love and be loved in return." Kinda wimpy for a wrestler.

Maybe that's the answer to our generation's mastery of the blase. Where we've found love, it's always been unreciprocated, insufficient, and human. It leaves us feeling empty. And CPR's (continuous, partial relationships...I love Alex Kirk) and alcohol help fill the void.

A Warrior said...

We are Generation Digital.

We are the Children of the Internet. We are the product of the "McDonaldlization" of America, where speed and mass production are prized and valued. This is the day in age in which if a person has patience, they are naive, nonconfrontational, and "nice."

I wonder, do most "nice" people have those hollow eyes you wrote about?

Those of us who think that patience is worth practicing, are we content to be a generation of "nice" people?

I am not. I want to be part of a generation of a people who have a beautiful and sacred yearning for that something beyond ourselves. I want to be a part of a generation of Vulnerability and of Humility. A generation who feels compassion on a hurting world and is willing to go to those suffering with a mission of hope and healing.

I do not want to be part of the Generation of Self-Involvement.

I am 21. By default, I am an idealist. I have not suffered a miscarriage, suffered the death of a sibling, nor have I, in times of loneliness, turned to drugs. A rough road is ahead of me, I know. But it is not until we ask not "who are we?" but "who do we want to be?" that we understand how "nice" and how empty we as a generation are at present.

(As an aside, I miss ol' Union County. Warriors and Spartans, best high school rivalry ever.)

Tasha said...

This post reminded me of something I heard this summer and I thought I'd throw it out there. For any of you who believe in modern prophets and believe prophecy is still happening out there, I had this passed onto me by a pastor/mentor of mine. Many of the prophecies coming out from current prophets revolve around a "faceless generation," that is being raised and is waiting in the wings and is going to change the world for the better. This post reminded me of that and I think that there is still hope out there for us, for our generation. And though I like to think that we don't need a prophecy like this to find hope for us, I also think there's something very powerful behind it. Whether or not we are this generation is yet to be determined but I think one way or another, we are shaping the world for this change and may be playing a role in shaping this
generation.

Oakley said...

I like to think of our generation as one of yet to be fulfilled potential. We worry about genocide and killing in other countries but we don't have the power or experience yet to be effective. We continue to follow the rules and beliefs of the "old guard" because we aren't ready to take the wheel. Most importantly and in light of having finished Raggamuffin Gospel I feel like all generations fall short in accepting each other's love and God's. I'll continue to spend my breaks and non-breaks loving every meaningful conversation, in deep thought while running, and always knowing that patience is a virtue.

Jeff said...

wise words Oak.