Before I explain fracturing one of the great literary openings, I want to apologize for the extended period I’ve taken off from writing Monday posts. We’re way past my planned reappearance in January when I said I’d re-open. There have been deaths, potential lives (I’m going to be a grandfather to twin girls), a son moving out of the house, a rescheduled release date of my first three Matt Jacob novels by Polis Books, a decision to issue the fourth (TIES THAT BLIND) in fall of 2015 as both a print and e-book, and a great vacation in Mexico. From here on in I intend to post every other Monday and occasionally have different interesting and talented writers filling in on the off week.
As for the post’s title, it popped while watching an episode of Cosmos. I don’t have many regrets about my lack of formal education and perhaps that lack has added to my incredible delight and amazement as I begin to discern the scope of information and understanding we, as humans, have at our fingertips. In fact, it will take decades to decipher the raw data we receive every day from the rovers and probes that have been sent to space. It makes me tingle the same as listening to Rubinstein playing Chopin’s Nocturnes, Miles, reading Raymond Chandler, or seeing a Eugene O’Neill play.
It’s not just astronomers who might be living in the best of times. We’ve been discovering new species that survive at the ocean’s depths via modern submersible technology. And what of neurologists and neuropsychologists mapping the electrical pathways of the brain and the implications for treating diseases like Parkinson’s, for example. Hell, it’s only been about a decade since the completion of the Human Genome Project and we’re already reaping its benefits, and not just in medicine. Frankly, the discoveries that have occurred during my lifetime have dropped my jaw.
And let’s not ignore technology and the Internet, which has changed the way people interact, the ‘size’ of our world, politics all over the planet, and offers the opportunity to disseminate information faster than our wildest dreams.
Yeah, I know. A lot of people won’t like the paragraph above. I often hear complaints about the loss of the “real” world to the “virtual.” The massive erosion of privacy. Have listened as people derided the “Arab Spring” since the results have been considerably less than desired. I understand the issues, see the complications, appreciate the downsides, but continue to say bring it on.
From where I sit, the potential far outweighs the negative. Furthermore, whenever societies go through seismic change, many people decry the loss of the past. I’m just not one of them. Does anyone really believe the world would have known about the kidnapping of 250 Nigerian girls without the Internet?
That last fact brings me to the second half of the title. With all this great knowledge tumbling into our lives, we still live in a world better known for atrocities than humanity. That, to me, is a sick mind fuck.
People are going to tell me “twas ever thus” and they may be accurate. But until my dying day I’m never going to believe it has to stay this way, that we’re not better than this. That the gentle acts of kindness, compassion, and generosity we see between individuals every day can’t be translated into the greater society everywhere.
Why? It’s isn’t because of anything rose colored. I’ve been lucky to have seen some serious change for the better over the course of my life. From changing attitudes toward Trans*, LGBs, and women to issues that include income inequality–(1% versus 90)–and, to a much lesser degree, institutional racism.
Then add to that the commitment and work being done by those coming after my generation. Despite the economic hardships that younger people now face, they are still growing Teach For America. Still finding ways, inside and outside the system, to work for social change. Again, not just in the U.S., but places where it’s even more difficult and the risks much, much greater.
But yeah, you gotta be blind not to see that way, way too much totally sucks—and it behooves us to never forget. But however ugly it is and/or becomes, there’s really is an awful lot of wonder, awe, art, music, science, and good, good people to love and respect.
(Please remind me of this column when I get into one of my negative rants. Thanks.)
Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly.