Politics. Religion. Privacy. Climate change. Abortion. Gay Marriage. GMOs. Welfare. Education. Immigration. Jobs.
Angry Birds. Words with Friends. Whatever’s on HBO…
I told a friend, the other day, that I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out what’s behind that benign, feeble-looking smile some old people seem to wear on their faces constantly. It’s neither benign nor feeble, but likely something akin to my Grandmother’s expression: “Bless your pointy little head.”
I look at those faces, and where I once saw bland senility, I now imagine darker thoughts – thoughts no longer voiced because they’ve realized the pointlessness, the futility, of arguing. I imagine them picturing nuclear winter, content in the knowledge that they won’t live long enough to see it. Or wondering if it’ll give a brief respite from their arthritis before blasting the skin off their bones. They’re thinking they’re soon to have a little chat with God, personally – or not – and they are ready, or have at least come to accept the imminent inevitability of it.
Privacy? There’s nothing “private” on an autopsy table, and their least favorite nephew will probably be the first to crack the password on their PC – but they’re pretty certain they can’t give a damn from six feet under. Abortion? The thought makes them deeply sad, but so does the thought of children eating dirt to quiet the agonizing rumbling in their bellies, or children being beaten or thrown out by parents who never wanted them in the first place. Gay marriage… well, the world didn’t actually end when interracial marriage was made legal; in the end, it’s really no skin off their nose.
We all make choices, and now, with someone hinting that they may not be able to live independently and make choices for themselves anymore, they see how desperately choice – and who chooses for us, when we can’t – matters. Choice may be the last power we have to relinquish, and when that is gone, what’s the point?
Children, that’s the point.
If you’ve got no skin in the game – you know, the reasonable certainty that you’ll live long enough to bear the consequences of the choices we make as a people, or that your children will suffer them after you’re gone – you might as well smile benignly and think, “Bless your pointy little head.”
If your children are making the wrong choices, there comes a point where you bow out gracefully and say, “I love you, but you’ll have to learn this one for yourself – the hard way.” Bless your pointy little head – I tried.
You’ve seen how certain choices play out – how history tends to repeat itself in cycles. Civilization’s on a shorter cycle than, say, climate change – but we humans, in our impatience, accelerate everything. On the one hand, we want to think we have power and control over everything (particularly each other), but when it comes to the major consequences of our actions, we want to wash our hands of it and say, “Not my fault!” Well, bless our pointy little heads.
I’ve often pondered whether it might be my karmic fate to come back as a redwood tree, for my impatience and restlessness. To spend three hundred years rooted to one spot, while small woodland creatures burrowed into my body to build their homes, to stand mute and stoic through ravaging storms and forest fires. With any luck, I’ll be chopped down in my prime and turned into a book – if anyone still reads.
We’ve laughed about this, you and I, but what if the woods are full of such people – what if the woods are full of impatient, short-sighted people who exploited nature and each other for their own short-term gains, and now stand there, powerless, leaves a-quiver, waiting for the next apocryphal crack of lightning on wood, and the scent of burning pine? After 300 years of anxious anticipation, will they welcome it with open branches?
Or will they weep for their saplings?