I spent New Year’s Day at my father’s home in nearby Kenwood with family and some family friends. The house was overrun by five boys between the ages of four and fifteen months, along with twelve adults. Amidst the joyous chaos I was able to steal a few moments to reflect–mostly with happiness but also with pangs of worry–on the state of my and our collective world as we enter a new calendar year.
I’m not big on holidays or ceremony but I do feel this instinctive need to try to capture moments of time, which seem to pass so quickly, particularly now that I’m a father. Observing my 20 month old son as he develops his vocabulary, comprehension and social skills is a wonder. It often feels like every new day I encounter a new person and I’m soundly amazed at least once a day at the speed and intensity with which he learns. It also helps me to feel how fleeting time can be.
And so there I was yesterday, trying to soak in this beautiful moment in time… watching Avi at play with his two cousins and the sons of friends from New York…. laughing as both my parents (divorced now but still friends) took turns feeding and being fed by Avi…. taking a walk on a crisp day with the sunlight dancing off the vine covered Sonoma valley hills with my brother.
I spend much of my life wondering why and how I got so lucky and yesterday was such a strong expression of this. Perhaps because I feel so aware of the improbability of this fortune–to have been born at all, to have love and freedom and purpose and opportunity–I put pressure on myself to make the most of it by improving the world (the Jewish concept of tikkun olam has profound personal meaning). But I also worry at times that all of this is a momentary mirage, to be burst in a moment of tragedy for which I cannot prepare or prevent. Often, both this feeling of being deeply blessed and living with a quiet unease, like the shudder of a passing dark cloud on an otherwise brilliant day, coexist in the same moment of time. Yesterday was like that for me, as I reflected on the transition from 2007 and 2008.
Why am I posting about all of this here? Because my humble efforts with Climate Changers are really just an expression of this same tension. Am I the only one who feels the singularity of this relatively brief moment in time? We are on the cusp of disaster or promise. Business as usual, I think, is no longer an option. Not only Avi’s life but my own will look very different than my previous 35.
Standing on this peak–January 1, 2008–I feel like I can see two futures: One of darkness, where security and prosperity are a matter of local resources, hands-on skills and resiliency, and who you know… where millions if not billions will suffer devastating economic and environmental crises… where Avi would be best served if we taught him how to build and fix things with his hands, tend land and water, grow food, and moved him to a place where the consequences of climate change will be minimized.
The other is one in which a deep societal shift rapidly takes place–think of cultural and value norms changing the way people live with the same speed and depth as the internet–leading to societies built around visions for environmental and economic sustainability. This future will feature breathtaking technological advances in how we capture and use energy, how we reuse, recycle and preserve resources, but these innovations must come from the seed of peoples’ vision for and commitment to change.
2008 is such a critical year because time is running out for that positive shift to take place. It’s also critical because the U.S. general election will do much to either propel us in a new direction or keep us mired in the old world of partisan political gamesmanship and special interest complicity and public cynicism. Leadership–one of vision and courage–is desperately needed.
I hope that on January 1, 2009 the view from the peak will be that much brighter than yesterday’s.