Monday, February 23, 2009

Crumbling Foundations, 2009

In the early 1990s I won a newspaper award for a series of articles I wrote called "Crumbling Foundations." At the time, it was an examination of how our economic, moral and educational paradigms were shifting and leading us into new ways of thinking. With such change came uncertainty. But there still seemed to be an abundance of solid ground available.

Today...the foundations, like the speed of technological change since those newspaper days, are almost beyond recognition. They not only have crumbled, they have evaporated. So many things that seemed relevant or pressing a couple of years ago are now just sidebar conversations.

I am by nature a glass half-full kind of person. I usually expect things to turn out well. So this pondering is not so much a hopeless rant or complaint, as it is a bewilderment at trying to put my finger upon what is stable and knowable.

Work hard enough and stay positive and overcome hurdles and you will succeed? An underlying American foundation. Crumbling into dust. The next generation to come can expect a better quality of life than the one before? Shaken to the core with each extra pile of future debt. A good education is the gateway to upward mobility? Look at all the smart people scrambling amid the debris. Capitalism and the lack of interference in a free market economy makes our financial system stable and unique? Requiem. Home ownership is the key to eventual personal wealth? The key no longer fits in the front door.

Where shall we go? Upon what shall we build?

Did we really have the control we thought we had before anyway? As I write this my vibrant, usually healthy sister is on the eve of some very delicate surgery in the latest phase of her battle against breast cancer. Less than two years ago a car came within 10 feet of running over my wife and youngest daughter. We give life our all, but so much of it hangs by a thread of grace.

This is the season for the artistry that is in each of us to emerge, for life to get simpler and, as a paradoxical result, richer. Less is more, and stripping away all of the external distractions that went along with the illusion of foundations might be the key to contentment. We are spirits, as the rock group the Police sang, in the material world. What nurtures our spirits is what lasts. The rest crumbles to dust, sometimes caught in the wind, sometimes flowing in a tributary down to the river and off somewhere beyond the sea.


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