When I was 18 I thought “we” (my generation) could solve the majority of the world’s problems. I was the traditionalist Christian variety, which meant I didn’t completely write off the past, but I thought “we” could remodel what was wrong with the last few generations/centuries, pull out the ‘extract’ and start fresh. Previous Christians had gotten us into this mess because of hypocrisy, lackluster devotion to the cause, and either (1) harshness and knee-jerk reactionism or (2) ineffectual saccharine niceness that wimped out. They’d either overplayed their hand or rolled over like a scared puppy. We were going to fix all of this. We were going to end sex trafficking, prostitution, jilted heartbreak, abortion, father’s abandoning their children, third-world hunger, and tyrannical dictatorships around the world. We’d end infidelity, sexual violence, and brutality, and fill the world with democracies honoring human rights and patched-up happy families eating dinner together. We could fix it all. Sitting on the folding chairs in the church basement, I respectfully listened to the grownups while re-imagining how we’d “fine tune” their message and excise the offputting bits, as well as avoid the character mistakes they’d clearly made. We’d back them up while helping them out and improving on their struggle — our generation would be like the Riders of Rohan, who show up at Helm’s Deep when the sun rises.
I was so arrogant and stupid then.
I’ll be 30 in less than a year. I’m so damn tired of trying. What I thought were paper dragons are really live 3-dimensional dragons, solid things, with moss growing on them that is itself thousands of years old. Prostitution, slavery, rape, misogyny, paternal abandonment, bullies running governments, injust mass executions, pathological lying, the abuse of the defenseless …all those things will be around long after I am gone. We can make a little change here or there, but these dragons have bested our ancestors and they’ll best us. And our ancestors– probably tried just as hard as us. They were once that sanguine schemer sitting on the Grecian or Roman or Medieval equivalent of a folding chair, politely listening to their elders talk in the agora/colonnade/basement, planning to improve and win the struggle and save the world.
We are not the first and we are not the last. The dead are filled with do-gooders who tried.
And I’ll be dead one day. Maybe in three decades, maybe in five. But it is coming, and just like that, I’ll have joined the ranks of the dead, while the young smile quietly on the basement folding chairs, planning to fix it all.
I was staring at a large tree today, as its branches waved in the wind. It’s trunk was old, it’s roots curving around bits of stone/concrete covered in moss. The wind kept blowing the branches. They thrashed about, making the same sound as the sea.