I can’t remember all the words but I remember hearing a ditty once that began, “My father in his house of logs said the world is going to the dogs”. Today is Father’s Day, and while I am a professional and practical optimist (no point in being a pessimist), I am embarrassed to say that I am starting to think like this jingle. The point to the verse is, of course, that as we get older we can easily become trapped in a kind of negativity—comparing current events with the ‘good old days’. This in spite of the fact that somehow life always works out and, all in all, it gets better over time.
My dad was a child and teenager during the “Great Depression” of the 1930s. From what we can see from old newsreels and read, it was pretty bad and a lot of people suffered. Today some are predicting a similar calamity—the automobile, finance, construction and real estate industries are in trouble and the price of oil isn’t likely to decline in the foreseeable future. If we throw in climate change, global terrorism and the heartbreak of psoriasis, then there is good reason for concern.
The fact is that every generation faces challenges, many seemingly insurmountable and intractable. Human evolution has been built on overcoming hardships and intractable difficulties. This doesn’t make the suffering less real or the times any more palatable, but it does give us a longer term perspective and remind us that we have a choice in how we will relate to the circumstances no matter how bleak they may seem. The real tragedy is if we don’t learn from our experience and repeat the same challenges from one generation to the next—a fact that sadly is too often the case.
The possibility of learning from the past is one of the gifts of the older generation. By the same token, in a world that is changing as rapidly as ours it is equally important that our generation learn from the young. Otherwise, we end up pontificating and looking down on those we love. Our musings can become abusings or just boring. Either way, we become marginalized spectators of a world we no longer live in.
So fathers everywhere, let’s not bemoan the state of the world so much as accept the challenge of the ages to fix it.