One question that people are regularly asked in opinion polls is whether they believe that their children will have better or worse lives than theirs. Considering how fast technology has been advancing and how many new choices we have in today’s world, one might expect a lot of optimism. But in fact, it’s the other way around—many people have become convinced that their children’s lives will be harder.
Why so much gloom? Don’t we like having plenty of choices? Well, maybe not so much. Although we might not want to go back to the days when there were only three commercial TV networks and playing games meant the cards and board games in the closet, we now have at our fingertips literally millions of ever-changing ways to spend our time. That’s just plain overwhelming. And, who knows what’s happening with the economy and our jobs? When we try to imagine what our children’s lives will be like, we end up with a jumbled mental picture that’s a blur of confusing details. Confusion=bad.
I have to confess that I got distracted while writing this entry, which I meant to post yesterday. My mind filled up with random thoughts about what I might be doing several years from now, how this blog would fit into the life of a future me, and whether or not I would accomplish anything significant in those potential scenarios. And that illustrates a large part of the problem—we’ve gotten so used to thinking in terms of goals and accomplishments, rather than simply enjoying the moment.
Once upon a time, when we were young, it was okay to just sit under a tree and write notes in a journal. If we looked up from the page and watched an ant climbing the rough bark or a hummingbird hovering beside a fragrant flower, we didn’t feel obligated to do something more productive instead. Life felt complete in itself; we didn’t look upon it as consisting of goals and tasks to be worked through according to business principles of efficiency and continuous improvement.
Now we are far removed from those long-ago days when mindfulness came easily to us. It’s hard to imagine either that we’ll find our way back to that peaceful mindset or that our children, having grown up in such a busy world, will ever know what it was like. Of course, any of us could set aside time each day to clear away our worries and distractions—but we overcomplicate that also, and the idea of a simpler life becomes just another to-do that hasn’t gotten done.
That’s probably why bucket lists have become so popular, too. Modern humans lead such regimented lives and are so afraid of not getting things done without a schedule, it seems perfectly normal to plan out every major activity for an entire lifetime. That’s not for me! Just to remind myself that I’ll always have plenty of fun choices, even though there’s no telling what might happen in the future, I keep random notes on things I might want to do someday. If I never get around to them, well, that’s perfectly fine because there are so many other possibilities!