Letter to the Future. X - Our Age

30 March 2011

Our Age

To Future,
He must have been six or so.  I'm bad at guessing ages.  Small, high pitched, thoughtful, standing no taller than my waist. He and his mom had snagged the last table in the otherwise full Starbucks, across the aisle at my ten o'clock.  I was reading a novel.  A gaggle of undergrad girls, my neighbors on the banquet I was sitting on, were plugged in, scanning Mac screens and print-outs, connected to their pockets via iBuds.  The business professional diaspora and the DU herds streamed in and out, coming from the last thing, pausing for a liquid kick, on to the next thing.  But the little boy, he was creating worlds on one hundred square inches of plyboard.  Unwittingly, he shared a narrative of embattled rocket ships with all of us, excitedly blasting a tiny wooden dowel into the air, having devoured the chocolate truffle once perched atop it.  Mom tried to keep up; he would radio Houston with progress reports, and distort his face when mom came up with too convenient a response.

"Three, two, one..blast off!  But what's wrong?!  The rocket packs have fallen off, the ship is damaged!" 
Mom lifts her rocket ship toward his, suspended in crisis over a latte on the table.
"I think I can help..."
"No!! I don't think it will work! What will we do!?"

It was as if Calvin accidentally left Hobbes at home and mom, a loving stand-in to be sure, was not a worthy understudy.

My novel was good, really good.  But in certain moments it lacked the conviction of his reality, and so I listened and laughed right along.

Feathers were beginning to rustle in the gaggle of young ladies next to me, however.  Loud sighs, flamboyant shrugs, conspicuous peaks over shoulders interrupted their oscillations between Facebook and reading assignments.
"I might have to leave," confessed one girl, whose original attractiveness was shrinking fast. "He's at the age where he should know better."

In fifteen minutes the boy had explored the world sufficiently, packed it back up to store in his pocket, where next time he might take it out and find knights and princesses, or wolves and wild moons, or benevolent whales that rescue ships of hippie penguins in the clutches of alien tractor beams.  Mom took a breath, laced up her mental sneakers, and they left.

"He's at the age where he should know better."

Future, venture to presume that your actions and encounters, your temperament and your observations are unwedded, independent of one another, and soon you'll find elements of your world and yourself intolerable. The world is populated by despots and revolutionaries, factory farmers and a starving peasantry, shuttle commanders and, yes, louldy-imagining little boys.  The way they affect you, all of them, together and in their own ways, matters each and every time they do so; 'acting your age' has more to do with prioritizing your responses to all these entities, than the volume with which you imagine other worlds.  The exaltation you afford yourself, the one that places all the world in orbit around your comforts, will make you impatient in coffee shops seated next to energetic minds as well as at the gas pump when the death of thousands at the hand of tyrrants irritates you because it inflates the price of petroleum. 

"He's at the age where he should know better."  That may very well be true.  But my neighbor is at the age where patience is capable of making space for the purported imperfections of youth.  Thus far, Future, the most valuable piece of advice I can leave for you is a persistent and never-fully-answered question.  How do we make this time our own?  Don't allow yourself to ignorantly splinter your mind into the local and distant anymore than your biology demands.  Your patience for noisy kids at play in dramatically constructed netherworlds is inextricable from all your other abilities to offer earnest conetmplation in a world of unforgiving complexity.  At war with anything that dents the space of your self, you'll miss the enlightenments that come when the space is fortuitously invaded.

Smile at the imagining kid, Future, and if you can, make it known to him that his creation is welcome with you.

- erik in the past

1 comment:

  1. Sweetness. You are such an unbelievable story teller. Such a great anecdote and an even better message.