‘The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be.'’ ~Paul Valery
When I was maybe 7 years old and thought about the future my recollection is I recall it involving space exploration. Not my personal future mind you, but in the broadest sense, the future of mankind. At that tender age, it even seemed believable. You see, as far away as the future seemed to me, there was a level of expectation involved in it.
Not all my expectations of the future seemed to be positive or exciting. At age 8 to 9 I also lived as many at the time did in fear of nuclear warheads dropping out of the sky. This fear of course had a far greater rational aspect to it at that time then my thoughts of exploring space and even visiting the moon. And this latter threat was at that time as much about the present even more that the future. As the Cuban Missile crisis ended, the threat of future nuclear war did not. It remains a possibility today and in fact seems even more likely from a rogue entity then any foreign nation.
There are so many aspects of changes in society today that demonstrate the remarkable rate of new advances in medicine and technology that make thinking about future advances a mind spinning exercise. This gives credence to Paul Valery’s quote… the future is just not what it used to be.
It was not all that long ago that Sarah Palin was being introduced to a crowded convention hall in Denver, Colorado and the rest of the nation as the Republican Vice Presidential Candidate. That night she brought the people to their feet with signs and chants of “Drill-Baby-Drill,” a slogan that would spill over into rallies around the country that lasted well past the election and continued until recently and now we only shake our heads over a different spill over into the gulf region that is slowly trying to regain some measure of what it was before hurricane Katrina blighted the region.
We are more interwoven into the economic fabric of the rest of the world that things can happen overnight on the other side of the globe and we find ourselves dramatically impacted by it. You are no doubt wondering where if anyplace I am going with all this. If you were expecting solutions, I am sorry, I have none to offer. These are painful times for many and sadly for many, they are paying the price of a greedy few. I could tell you that I believe I see some positive signs by our government, but as the Old Breton fisherman’s prayer that John F. Kennedy liked to quote goes, "Oh God, Thy sea is so great and my boat is so small." I do however believe that for the rest of us, these are the times best made for poetry. Times when we need things to bind us together. Things we hold in common like language.
It was at the Mary Oliver reading this past week that this remarkable lady who is not a world leader, not a legislator, not a religious figure, not even an editorialist, but rather a simple poet; quite likely unknowingly instilled a degree of peace and spirituality upon us that I’m sure made that short period of time together worth much more than any of us might have imagined in advance.
I hope throughout this year already filled with much uncertainty, poets will write and readers will read and we will all be blessed by poems that touch that place where our hearts and minds meet.