Talkin' 'Bout My Generation
Sociologists and historians seem to love giving every generation a name and an identity. According to the Center of Generational Kinetics, there are five active generations right now:
- Gen Z, iGen, or Centennials: Born 1996 – TBD
- Millennials or Gen Y: Born 1977 – 1995
- Generation X: Born 1965 – 1976
- Baby Boomers: Born 1946 – 1964
- Traditionalists or Silent Generation: Born 1945 and before
I happen to land in Generation X, born in 1968, raised in the 1970s, and coming of age in the 1980s. My generation was shaped by the end of the Cold War, and the decade of greed in the 80s.
Gen Xers are much more likely to have grown up in families where both parents worked outside the home and as such, they were left to their own devices much more than Baby Boomers, and the Millenials. Here's an interesting description of Gen Xers I discovered recently on indeed.com:
Generation X, also called Gen Xers, grew up with minimal adult supervision and thus learned the value of independence and work-life balance. They also appreciate informality, are technologically adept, flexible, and highly educated.
There's a fairly accurate stereotype about my generation that describes Gen Xers as much more cynical, direct, suspicious, and independent than both Boomers and Millenials. To be fair, it was Gen Xers who created grunge music, and movies like Reality Bites.
But enough about me and my g-g-generation... (sorry, couldn't help myself there)
What I'd really like to focus on is how the active generations seem to constantly pass on problems, pain, and the like to the next generations, and what we can do to end that cycle.
Interestingly, research in the parenting characteristics of the active generations has revealed that what the Traditional generation wanted for their children was to protect them. Boomers most wanted their children to have an easier life than they did. Gen Xers are a bit more nuanced in that they want their children to have a better life than theirs, not necessarily easier.
What sparked my curiosity about all of this was a quote I read from Fr. Richard Rohr:
Spirituality is about transforming both history and individuals so that we don’t just keep handing on the pain to the next generation.
Here's the thing... each active generation has its own characteristics, defining moments, nuances, and the like. There are always exceptions. I have friends who qualify as Millenials, but who I have more in common with as a Gen Xer. The same is true for some late Boomers as well. It's not an exact science.
But what is common is the desire that each generation has that subsequent generations would thrive as human beings, solve the world's problems, advance the common good, and essentially leave the world a better place than they found it.
That is the desire. It's there in every active generation that is old enough to ponder these kinds of things.
So why can't we figure this out? Why is it that we are able to make such incredible technological, medical, and societal advances, but the basic problems that plague us over and again still remain?
I think it comes down to fear, and the desire to be right about the way we see the world.
Despite the desires that we might have, our fears about losing our own particular identity, and way of life supersede everything else. Not to mention, our desire to be right about the things we believe keeps us from moving forward faster.
Far too many of us are teaching our kids and grandkids to hate, to be afraid, and to be angry. We are passing on the pain of our original sins without regard to what it is doing to our society, and to our world. Bad theology, revisionist history, extremist politics---all of these are the products of our fear and our stubborn certainty.
But we can change this. We can break the cycles that seem to perpetuate all of this negativity in our world. We can decide to leave behind all of the pain of yesterday and give the next generations everything they need to solve the problems of tomorrow.
In order to do this, we have to first let go of all of that pain. We have to speak the truth about ourselves. We have to learn to surrender more to the One whose divine purpose is peace, wholeness, abundant life, and love.
And we need to start stumbling after Jesus in the right direction---toward resurrection and eternal life both now and forever. May it be so. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.