I don’t try to describe the future. I try to prevent it. —Ray Bradbury
The future is a difficult topic when today has a strange and different feeling to it. Shortly after 3 AM, five cars rolled up at our next door neighbor’s, apparently bringing home the party that started at a local club. An hour later, the dog and I went for our morning stroll. We couldn’t help noticing lights on where normally there are none, an absence of cars where there normally are some, and then, there was the couple who decided to leave the light on and the window open as they had sex. The dog was curious.
Of course, I woke up to the news of the bombing in Chelsea (New York) this morning. At this point, it is still far too soon to know the intent or purpose of the act. Chelsea is a very active area at night. That no one was killed is nothing short of amazing. That hours have passed and the topic is not trending, however, is frightening. We have become comfortable with acts of terrorism.
All of these experiences, from the neighbor’s party to the bombing in Chelsea, become part of how we shape our future. We respond to these events, even if they don’t directly affect us, in ways that, in turn, affect how we respond to other events that have not yet happened. With everything that we do, everything we see, everything that enters our conscience becomes part of what we do next. Do we run? Do we hide? Do we go back to bed? The interconnectedness of it all is mind boggling.
How Children Imagine The Future
The folks over at Hasbro, you know, the place where making sure your kids are well-occupied is a business, decided to ask children to imagine life in the year 2076—60 years from now. Looking into the future is fun when one has their entire future in front of them. At my age, it starts to get a bit frightening. The answers kids gave back, though, weren’t too surprising: flying cars, flying shoes, houses extending up into the clouds. You’ll be glad to know that we all get pet unicorns and stoves cook the food for us.
Oh, and the aliens are our friends at that point.
Hasbro took those answers and did something cool: imagined them in Play-Doh. The process was caught in time lapse photography. Here’s the future of fashion for you:
There are others, equally amusing. What I noticed, though, is that children did not see a future full of fear. We’re friends with aliens. We have unicorns. Everything is okay.
We All May Be Jerks
One of the articles I’m half-reading between fashion shows is How To Tell If You’re A Jerk. I’ll admit that I’ve not been overly enthused about completing the article. I didn’t have to read too far to realize that, yes, there are times I am totally a jerk. So are you. In fact, using the criteria set forth in the article, it would seem rather inevitable that we are all going to be jerks in one way or another.
What is likely more important is whether, or when, we’re going to be jerks in the future. Notice how children see the future. Everything is innocent in their eyes. There are no jerks for them in the year 2076. While I wish we could make that reality come true, I doubt very seriously if we can help ourselves. In order to give today’s children a society free of jerks we would have to:
- stop diminishing the humanity of others
- accept criticism and realize we are all fallible
- acquire an ability to actually listen to others
- realize the amazing potential in others
I don’t doubt for a moment that we might want to adopt those traits and attitudes. Certainly, we would like others to treat us with such kindness. Yet, our ability to apply those qualities toward others is strained. We find ourselves in tense situations and our best intentions snap.
A Future Where We All Live
Another article that crossed my path this week comes from The Atlantic and sets a rather ominous tone with the title, The World Is A Thriving Slaughterhouse. My, isn’t that the cheeriest thing you’ve read all day? The author is an award-winning writer who has spent most of his career covering places of conflict, talking to refugees and those who somehow managed to survive the most audacious travesties of war. He points out the fact that over the length of his career, the killing has never stopped. Rather, it only changes locations.
My mind flashes back to New York. Most streets in the Chelsea district are open now. The second device has been defused. Mayor DeBlasio is calling the act “intentional” but still isn’t saying that it’s connected to a specific intent of terror. No one died this time. For that, we are thankful. Yet, the question in the back of my mind still asks, “Is it only a matter of time?”
Children don’t imagine a future where people are constantly dying. Why can’t we give them that? Why can we not make it our goal to create for them a future where, at the very least, humans aren’t killing humans. We may not be able to rid the world of all the horrible diseases. We certainly can’t prevent those acts of nature that wipe out thousands at a time. We can, however, stop intentionally killing each other. Why do we not do that? Why have we not done it before?
The Chance To Make Things Happen
No matter what we try, I don’t think we can make the unicorn thing come true. I’m sure we really want flying shoes, either; I see some potential danger there. There are other things we can do with our future, though. We can make it better than what we have right now. We can make tomorrow brighter. We can make nex week happier.Next month, we can all be in a better place.
What has to happen is we have to start changing our responses to the things that occur around us today. So the neighbor’s party is still going at 5:00 AM. Cool. Be glad they’re having a good time and that no one is getting hurt or driving home drunk. Worry less about what’s keeping others up late and more about we mgiht respond if/when they need help.
More than anything, how we fashion our future depends on us recognizing and valuing the humanity of other people. Even if they’re just as big a jerk as you are. We make a better future one thought, one response at a time. Start now.