Monday, July 30, 2007

8, 7

8. Ease defines my generation.

I wrote a post around Thanksgiving in which I wondered how history would look upon my generation. I received a couple thoughtful responses, one which argued that we would enter history as the age of technology and another from my friend Alex Kirk which argued that 9/11 would define us, just as war has defined generations which have preceded us.

In reflecting on this, I believe both of these thoughts exist as details which point to this overarching sense of ease with which my generation lives its collective life.

I must begin with the caution of generalization. Speaking in terms of an entire generation always brings with it exceptions and generalizations. Please allow me the wiggle room, as I know many of my peers have very surely not lived a life of ease to this point. Nor does it seem that it awaits them.

It may prove helpful to define this term "ease" because, on some level, we all have hardships and difficulties in our lives. After all, 'tis a sinful and broken world for us all. When I say that my generation lives a life of ease, I mean that no one has ever called us to any kind of selfless sacrifice. We have never had to think of anyone other than ourselves. We have had no depression; in fact, we cry foul when the Dow dips below 10,000. The current war our country fights affects most of us only at a distance. We lost over 50,000 people in Vietnam and had to ration gas, among other things. Our death toll in Iraq sits in the 3000's, and the government has yet to ask the citizenry to sacrifice anything save for 20 minutes at airport security.

What's more, we would not stand for any demands made on us. The greatest noose a politician can currently make for himself exists in the hemp of that thing called "draft." If any politician mentioned the possibility, they would be finished. Hear me out, as a 23-year old male, I want nothing to do with the draft, but that is irrelevant for this conversation. Or maybe, and revealingly, not. What remains relevant is our complete unwillingness to be called into sacrifice. Let a volunteer go fight, we say. Let someone else make the sacrifice. Historically speaking, the current war against terror affects us little, if at all.

We have no economic depression. We have no societally consuming war. We have no necessary sacrifice. What we have in a historical sense is ease.

We have freedom to sit in coffee shops and become bitter about politics, we have time to drink and dance a bad week away on Friday night, we have limitless hours to spend on youtube, ESPN, and Comedy Central (and dare I say it, blogs) all because we have little incovenience.

To make this pesonal, could I imagine a post-Great Depression 23-year old taking a "year off" when a paying job sat available? Of course not! He or she would remain concerned about whether or not they would eat, not whether he/she could find a job about which he/she was "passionate." No way one could turn down gainful employment. To do otherwise would be imprudent and may, in fact, cost the Depression Era American his/her life.

All that to say, we have opportunities that preceding generations have not had because we have not been called from our life of ease.

No wonder the Gospel of Jesus Christ is foreign to us. Take up our cross? Love our enemies? Submit?

Uh, excuse me Jesus, could you quiet down a bit? I'm trying to watch my third episode of Sportscenter today.

7. The decisions of our youth remain with us.

It amazes me how often I refer to my high school days. My reputation as Dad, my academic achievements, my cross country days, they all seem to pop up in conversations more often than I would expect.

In reflecting on this, I have found myself in awe of how the decisions we make as children really can have marked affect on our futures. I spoke with a co-worker recently about a son's teenage arrest which continues to follow him into his adult years. I think of the statistics I hear on the sexual activity of teenagers and think of the emotional and interpersonal consequences this will have on their adult lives. I think of the foolish and sinful immaturities of youth which has led so many of us to recognize sin and thus the Gospel.

I have no suggestions, merely observations.

I really thought that the foolishness of our youth would leave us, consumed by a flood of wisdom and maturity which comes with adulthood. Yet, good or bad, our decisions - and those of people around us - as children mold us. This scares me to think that decisions we make when we are least equipped to make them can have such long-reaching consequences. So much is influential during a time in which we are so ill-equipped to properly influence anything, much less ourselves.

I still cannot get past the effect two stress fractures had on me, the desire for acceptance which middle school unpopularity has ingrained deep in my being, the difficulty in grasping grace and love because of years of uber-ambitious high school drive.

My adult life has not replaced my childhood. It merely responds to it. In this sense, the decisions made in my youth remain very much with me.


Megan said...

I have to disagree with your defining characteristic of our generation. mostly because if you take away the white, middle/upper middle class background (which is most of the people we know coming out of carolina) that isn't really true.

Jeff said...

I think in the large scheme of things, anyone in America has it simpler than the rest of the world.

And I find it interesting that you chose to include "white" in your description.