Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Myopic Visionary

Nothing came of my we20 gathering. The Repower America organizer bailed out which made it easy for me to let the whole thing slide.

On the morning of July 4th my dad topped off the gasoline tank in the car. The gas he got must have been mostly water, in any case the car conked out at the end of the driveway. The car still isn't fixed, so I've been more isolated than usual this month. That's just a cop out for not trying harder to get a group together to talk turkey about what's going on and what we might do together in response. The biggest hurdle I can't seem to leap is a feeling of lacking credibility.

On a different theme, I've been thinking more recently about a generation gap between Baby Boomers like me and younger folks. I like younger folks and it's nice to cross paths on the Internet. Part of the gap as I see it has to do with different approaches to new communications technologies. And then there's how the Internet puts me in touch with things I probably wouldn't have noticed otherwise, like pictures on Facebook.

The daughter of friends put up pictures from a music festival she attended last weekend, and because I'm friends with her at Facebook I get to see sets of pictures of friends of hers where she's been tagged in photos. I don't know the kids in most of the pictures, but I knew some of their parents when I was their age. One of the dads' picture was posted. I haven't seen him in years, in fact seeing his picture made me think of meeting his dad so many years ago. I don't really know what's up in these young lives, but the pictures make me think about when I was young.

Lots of people I knew then have done remarkable things in their lives. For others life descended in a downward spiral. I'm not sure what the report about me looks like. I'm not much more together now than I was back then. That gets to the nub of my credibility problem.

My mailing address now is Freedom, Pennsylvania. Back when I was in my early twenties it was Large, Pennsylvania. I much prefer Freedom. Large was an unfortunate trauma. I was very convinced that the energy crisis required people to find new ways of living. I was very excited about the work of The New Alchemy Institute and the notion of housing as a means for food production. My mother purchased a derelict property in a coal mining company town, a patch town. Some of this time I spent trying to invent a more self-reliant sort of life style with this house. It all went to hell in a hand basket. I feel sure the stories could be told in a hilarious way, failure is after all quite funny, but even now that episode of my life is painful enough that I've never had it in me to tell the stories in a funny way.

One very nice thing about being older is having old friends. Of course my friends know some of the stories from at Large. Because the story of Large had a lot to do with acting on predictions about energy shortages and energy costs, part of the fail has to do with how wrong my predictions turned out. That's not changed my general pessimism about energy today. But some of my friends have heard me spouting off about the energy crisis for over thirty years now. And, well, what have I got to show for it?

Yesterday thinking more or less along these lines I remembered a book I have from the early 1980's called The Integral Urban House. I was nowhere near as systematic as the folks who created that place, but something very much like it was what I was aiming for. It's cool to see the book is still in print. I wondered about the house now. According to this news article from late 2007 the Integral Urban House is just a house now.

In looking for info about the house online I kept running into descriptions of Sim Van der Ryn as a visionary. I really do admire Sim Van der Ryn's accomplishments, but I wondered what it takes to call yourself a visionary? I was feeling a bit snarky about it, given that in an inventory of my life, I never saw what came coming. A visionary, I'm not. Still we're far from coping with energy issues in a constructive way, so maybe I'm a myopic visionary.

I'm being hard on myself, and hard on my generational cohort. Some criticism is well-deserved. We screwed up in so many ways. I'm wonder whether young people know that many of their parents looked towards the future and thought big changes were needed? And I wonder what, if anything useful, we might tell them of our responses to that vision?

Here's what Matt Cantor the author of the news article about the Integral Urban House said of its reversion to just being a house:
The experiment could not sustain itself and I guess we all had to take the blue pill and go back to making believe that everything would continue to be fine no matter how we lived, who we killed or how much oil we burned.
Ouch! That stings! I've never seen The Matrix, but I get the blue and red pills. With age comes wisdom; I'm a bit short on any claim to wisdom myself. There's an irony too that even in selling-out I'm a sad sack. Lots of my age cohort have done pretty well by choosing the blue pill--the choice to go back to a waking sleep. Often the biggest reasons for the choosing blue over red as it were for many of us was a vision of life for our kids. What a mess.

Now the kids are grown and facing their own decisions. I suspect young people see folks my age as cynical. I'm not sure we really are. I feel quite sure we care very much about the world in which our children will live. So why is it so hard to get together to discuss what we might do together about the perilous future? I can't get a coherent story together that might lead to some collaboration among friends. I'm working on it and will try again soon to have a gathering here.

1 comment:

DaisyDeadhead said...

I was feeling a bit snarky about it, given that in an inventory of my life, I never saw what came coming.

Nobody does, some people just successfully give the impression that they do, is the thing.

We can't know what we can't know.

I've decided, knowing what we can't know, is just as important as knowing what we CAN know.

If that makes sense.


Love the photo of you!