Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Freedom Generation Gap, and William Blake

Today, I was walking across a quiet parking area that included a small circular driveway/roundabout.  A mother and her high-school-age daughter were in front of me.  The daughter was proceeding to walk along the circumferential sidewalk when the mother boldly stepped out to make a shortcut across the circle.  Eventually, the daughter course-corrected to meet her.

I was struck by this.  Back when I was in my teens, I would have been the one to freely step off the sidewalk, and the older folks would have been more likely to stay on it.

It reminded me of many other similar occurrences with my own children and their friends.  From prudishness in fitness clubs, to acceptance of searches of their belongings, the younger middle-class generation is very happily rule-bound.  They don't ever seem to think of breaking a rule or law, written or unwritten.

When I describe things that I and my generation used to do, the younger folks are typically aghast, saying things like, "Well that was a long time ago, and it is certainly not acceptable in modern times."  I suppose that many of the things that my generation did would put us in various offender registries, if done now.  Of course, ha ha, I didn't do any of that myself.  Sigh, we had some fun... 

Even tiny things like the fact that I used to go up skiing wearing blue jeans, are cause for the tut-tut-ing of youngsters.  "You just can't do that nowadays, Dad."

Looking further back, I am convinced that if Thomas Edison had been born in modern times, he would have been put in federal prison for terrorism, arson, and trespassing long before he could have invented anything.

When he was in his early teens, he appropriated a train car for use as a rolling laboratory.  Phosphorus, along with other now-disapproved substances, burned it to the ground.  And even before that, his involvement with fire, explosives, electric arcs, and chemicals would have brought him immediately to the attention of the authorities today.

The poet, artist, and engraver William Blake (1757-1827) believed that by observing the small things, you could understand the larger things.  He called these insights "Minute Particulars".

In "Auguries of Innocence" he wrote,
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

And, more importantly to this discussion,

A dog starvd at his Masters Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State

By looking at small behaviors, such as how a man treats his dog, or how a teenager prefers to stay rooted to the sidewalk, you can chart the future course of the world.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour - See more at:

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