Thursday
Oct082009

« A Life In 100 Years Or Less »

I actually wrote this last year for the same occasion, but I'm not sure anything has changed and circumstances are such I don't think I shall try to top this. So here it is again.

One Hundred years ago my grandmother was born.
Of course she wasn't my grandmother then.
She was just one more new chance at getting things right in the world.
One more chance to solve the problem of war and economic inequality.
Perhaps racism would be erased and the human race would be won for good.
Maybe the rat race would be seen as the race not worth winning and not fit for human participation.
She might have witnessed the glorious second coming of Jesus a few times over (plenty of people predicted it).
But instead she witnessed grievous poverty while some got rich beyond all reason.
She witnessed the landing on the moon, but watched as the Kingdom of Heaven got further out of reach.
She watched as the stock market rose and rose to new heights, only to crash again—a rebuke to our materialism.
Her generation was among the last to know actual wealth.
It was on or in the ground. In the forests. In the community.
Her generation was among the last to know actual freedom.
Then came the car and the airplane, the credit card—the so-called liberators that inspired fanatic devotion.
To which my generation has become a slave.
Over which we now wage war and from which gangsters kill or enslave from on both sides of the law.
The surest preventative measure for that kind of lead and plastic poisoning is love.
But this is not what technology and markets and politics promises us—at least this is what they cannot deliver.
The century of technology and science has built us many things.
But it has not brought us happier families and better communities.
It has not made our water cleaner or our trees taller.
It has not answered our age old questions—at least the ones that matter.
It has not increased our capacity for love and mercy toward our neighbor.
It has brought us pain and grief from senseless death by the millions, and the promise of our final destruction.
What we have to look forward to is endless thwarted expectations.
The techno-messiah is a false messiah better called gadget-worship.
In her time it was the telephone or the phonograph, in ours it is the internet and the iPod.
The so-called greatest generation dropped the ball too.
Still they have much to teach us.
But my path is much like a mirror to theirs.
Their story is one of ascent while mine is one of descent.
The War to End All Wars and its sequel is still being fought somewhere in the world today.
Echoes of 1919, 1929, or 1939 ring loudly today while the echo of 1909 is for me to amplify.
The history books are chock full of conquest and vanity, inventors and geniuses.
We can measure the effect of this ruler or that; of depressions and wars; of laws and events on film.
But how do we measure the life of one woman during her 91 years when no one chronicled her history?
A mother and grandmother and a navy wife.
A patriot and a God-fearer.
An historian and a writer.
A teacher and an advocate.
A friend and a minister.
And so very much more.
The past century was the canvas upon which her life was painted.
But it was not her life.
She was not the inventions or the wars or the treaties which failed.
She was not the poverty or the racism which stifled human dignity.
She was not the television or Elvis' gyrating hips or Marilyn's upblown skirt.
She was not the cure for polio or the cause for AIDS.
She was not the frame 313 in the Zapruder film or the evacuation of Saigon.
She was not the Empire State Building or the Twin Towers.
She was not the convertible Cadillac on Route 66 or the oil shocks of the 70s.
And maybe for these reasons you will never read much about her.
The people who she touched don't write that sort of material.
Some of those to which she ministered are still in jail.
Others are dead.
Others are in their ivory towers or the jails of their own devising.
Some don't know what they had while others grieve their loss.
It's not that there aren't any new people who had her promise for a new beginning.
They're born every day in every nation in greater numbers than ever.
But none have been or will ever be like her.

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