September 22, 2012

The Disappearing Blues

It's early autumn, and the days grow noticeably shorter. I enjoy this time of year the most ... warm days and cool nights, a hint of winter waiting in the wings. Autumn is harvest time, when we gather up and measure the fruits of our labors. It's a time when I find myself sitting out on the deck reflecting on the year just past and the many years that preceded it, as viewed from the same perch on the cusp of the season.  If you put in enough years doing that, then weather turns to climate and events become trends.

Change is in the air. A shifting climate brings with it an uneasy feeling that what we knew is giving way to an unknown future we are ill-prepared for, an uneasiness that deepens as the gaze shifts to the political process that is supposed to deal with changing times and tides. My generation grew up believing that America was a nation that had all the answers. Now, it's hard to even  know what questions to ask.

That faith in a better future ... the anchor that steadied us against the winds of change ... a faith we got from our parents ... is now just another lost dream ... the disappearing blues. Americans always felt that we could somehow find a way through whatever was facing us. Not so much, anymore. The old answers aren't working any more, and as far as I can tell, no one has come up with any new answers. We continue to march to the beat of the same drummers ... left, right, left, right... heading towards the same cliff.

We all feel it, don't we, this sense that whatever bargain we struck with life has been declared null and void? Get a good education and a good job, get married and buy a house, save a little nest egg for those golden retirement years  .. none of that seems to work any more. A college education leaves kids deeply in debt before they even start, the jobs are overseas, the house is underwater, and the nest egg took a great fall.

I look at my kids and honestly have no clue how they will get by. Certainly, the life I had is no longer easily with reach. Buy a house? Why would you? Get a job with a good benefits? Good luck with that. Bootstrap yourself into little upward mobility with a good education? Sure, if you don't mind massive debt and no job prospects. And, oh, by the way, you'll need a masters degree if you want the really good jobs.

I know they will figure it out, just like every generation does. But it breaks my heart as a parent to know that somehow my generation has screwed things up to the point where the future is just one big uncertain mess. I hope they find a way through it. As someone who grew up believing in rugged individualism, I have trouble accepting the idea that the answers to the world's problems can be crowd-sourced, but maybe I'm just an old dog who can't learn the next new trick.

Think about it. One socially connected world pushing for one simple dream ... a little better life, a little freer life, a little healthier life ... one day at a time. Throw out the tired old regimes and start over. Like it or not, that's what's happening. Messy? Sure. A little bit of be careful what you wish for? Totally. The best hope for a brighter future. Time will tell.

I ease back in my chair and look up at the robins egg sky filled with mares tail clouds crossing over a pale moon sitting high in the southern sky. To the west, the setting sun is briefly tangled in the branches of my neighbor's trees before shaking loose to continue on its way to another dawn. A cool breeze nips at my arms; the dog nuzzles my hand. It's time to go in.

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