The world ain’t comin’ to an end, my friend.
The world is comin’ to a start.
Purlie Victorious Judson
My dad got an iPhone two Novembers ago. His intent was to be able to FaceTime the grandkids. Fourteen months later, he has yet to initiate a call.
Meanwhile, this morning, my two-and-a-half year old daughter grabbed my phone and asked Siri to put some candy in her backpack to take to school.
One generation sees technology as an insurmountable hurdle; the other, as a door to limitless potential and opportunities.
My dad tells me they’re out of ammunition in Mississippi, where he has chosen to hang his hat. He’s thinking about buying an H2 Hummer, so, in his words, he can get off the grid and hit the woods if things really go south.
What’s that all about? I ask.
I just don’t like the direction this country is going …
Which is what both the Federalists and Anti-Federalists were saying two hundred and thirty-whatever years ago. And what half of each generation has said every twenty years since. One of these days, someone’s going to be right, I guess. Doesn’t take Nate Silver to figure out that a guy batting .015 will eventually get a hit, if he swings often enough. (And don’t even get me started about a dude in a Hummer getting off the grid. One word: gasoline.)
Meanwhile, our little one — remember, she’s 2½ — thought one of the wheels on her doll stroller was wobbling, so she grabbed a wrench and pliers and flipped the thing over, intent on fixing it. Because everything is fixable to her. Everything. If not with duct tape and pliers, then with a band-aid and a kiss.
Put her in the kitchen, and she’ll start throwing things together, 100% convinced that it’s going to generate a pie or mac-n-cheese or cookies or something.
So, is the world coming to an end, or to a start? My first instinctive response is to say it’s a generational response. Our little one hasn’t been burned yet, whilst my old man has been around the block more than once. In round trips around the big ball of fire, I’m significantly closer to my dad than to my daughter — 70% of the way to my dad’s age, half a century away from the little one. On paper, I should be leaning in my dad’s direction.
And yet, at the same time, I don’t see how this attitude is not a choice. My dad sees his iPhone, and the screen is too small, the icons move all over the place, he can’t remember how he got to that thing he was looking at the other day. My daughter sees the same device, and she sees a servant standing by to grant most any wish. She can video chat with cousins and aunts and uncles (and grandparents, if she can get them to answer) , watch Curious George, learn shapes and colors … and maybe, someday, use it to fill her backpack with candy.
Maybe it takes a lot of work to stay in the optimistic camp. Maybe we all eventually slip into “glass isn’t just half empty, it has a damn whole in the bottom” mode. But I know one little girl who will find a surprise in her backpack after school today.