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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Reality Check.

Once upon a time, when we were children, we all said we would save the world.  I remember a particular English class in IS 391 (Thanks, Ms. Amy Greenberg) in which we wrote our own eulogies, and listed the accomplishments we would have made.  Some of us said we'd cure cancer or AIDS, some said we'd be rappers or movie stars, or famous lawyers and authors.  And while we have all enjoyed a modicum of success, I hazard to guess that very few of my friends from IS 391's class of 1992 have impacted the world the way we thought we would.  I guess that's a consequence of the reality of adulthood, putting away the bigger dreams of our childhood in favor of more practical ones.

I came across a YouTube clip of someone around my age who, when she was a child, actually TRIED to save the world, and is actively still doing so.


The young woman in question is Severn Cullis-Suzuki, who at 12 was an environmental activist.  She gives a compelling speech 20 years ago at a UN Environmental summit that is painfully relevant today.  It silenced a room full of adults in 1992, and very likely would do so again today.  It was honest and heartfelt, and filtered only through the honesty of a child.  In it was no political maneuvering, no base to pander to.  It was a direct, simple statement that showed how we did, and still, make things like communicating as adults more difficult and complicated than we need to. While some would criticize her naivete, her lack of understanding of how the world works, I believe that same quality is what makes it resonate so strongly.  She doesn't understand the way the works, not because she doesn't know but because it makes no sense. It moved me very nearly to tears and put a couple of things very sharply into perspective.

For starters, though we are taught differently as children, we are very wasteful people as adults.  We seek to consume and dominate without ever seeking balance, and what doesn't fit gets thrown to the wayside.  Our society is like this in every phase, from living environment and feeding, to work, to play, to religion, and everything in between.  Human nature seems to be about creating and overcoming struggle, and it doesn't need to be about all that.  Especially not us in the Western world, especially not in this day and age.  And a quickie review of the things in my life that are wasteful, I on a personal level don't need to completely rewrite my life to make things better for the people around me.

The other thing that was put into perspective was the definition of impact.  Ms. Suzuki made an impact that is still rippling today, as evidenced by the fact that the things she was right about in the above 1992 video, she's still right about now.  We are still watching her humble a room full of delegates, businessmen and "important people."   It made me stop and think about the lasting impact my actions have had, or will have.  How have I affected the world around me?  How will I?

And that's the big reality check.  I wrote in my eulogy in 1992 that I would cure cancer and AIDS before dying old and rich in the arms of my young supermodel wife.  It's funny now, but I genuinely believed I would back then, and that it would be no big deal.  I haven't done anything more important in my life than have that dream when I was 13.  And though some of us have families to provide for, mouths to feed, lives to help shape, I would dare say that most of us have never had dreams wider in scope than when we were 13.

And that, my friends, is a tragedy.  We have become the adults in the video.

PS: Severn Cullis-Suzuki is STILL trying to save the world, these days for her child and that generation.

1 comment:

  1. I do understand, especially in the area of what we've done to change the world, a very justifiable response is "speak for yourself." Please keep in mind that, well, I am.

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