The long infancy of our offspring meets the higher imagination of our species to bind us in cooperative units. More simply, we need each other and we know it.
Let’s reason from the imagination to the offspring. Creative expression is most developed in the civilized or the tamed or whatever you wish to call the most advanced of our social units. Hunters and gatherers paint, sculpt and make music but much of their time is prisoner to survival. Technological advancement in the form of information and manufacturing services offers tremendous freedom for artistic expression.
Artistic expression reveals the inner-artist. Sadly, expressive persons are often the most despondent among us. Higher imagination does not naturally include higher happiness or greater serenity.
Higher imagination can, however, include within its auspices the ability to consider the feelings/needs of others even when those feelings/needs exist in competition, if not opposition, with one’s own feelings/needs. The story of the Christ, for instance, may speak to so many persons across history for this reason; He is the highest form of Human, in narrative expression poignant, in teaching, groundbreaking and in personal sacrifice, completely other-centered and utterly self-giving.
Large and larger social units sprout from human higher imagination. Man and woman form the first family unit (at least, the first we remember). From man and woman come the larger family unit, come the birth of the greatest of all human joys, grandparenting (no, really, I mean it) and the units grow and grow. Higher imagination grows into clans, moves into cities, morphs into nations, reaches across borders.
Human higher imagination is the birth of nations and the death of cultures. If imagination were used exclusively with its muse, empathy, we might not have troops at war or poverty at home.
Sinister forces inform human imagination as well. The same inner ability giving wellspring to empathy can also bubble up fear, anger and suspicion.
Unfortunately, until madness is conquered and anger stilled finally, some form of coercion will probably be required to route humankind to what Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature." What form might be the best to coerce us delicately?
Our children take so long to mature. The infancy of a human child may exceed the life time of the parent, as surely as its maturation process overwhelms parental patience. Arbitrarily, western culture set the maturity point of our offspring at twenty-one years of age, though the millenial generation insists it is closer to twenty-six years, or later, and I tend to agree with them, given the complexity of our era.
Might we all coerce ourselves to empathetic higher imagination around the welfare of the next generation and of the one to come and the one to come just after that one? I can control my appetites if my children have something to eat as a result. I can control my carbon binging if it means my grandchildren (them again!) will have clean air to breathe. So that they can live in a safer world, I can spend some time, money, effort and imagination to make friends for them around the world. I can even abandon the mistaken traditions of my nationalism or religion or socio-economic system, even surrender some autonomy, if to do so would give the coming ones a safer, cleaner, happier world.
We are not the owners of this planet, we are just squatters here. We are responsible to the Creator to enhance the planet, rather than live rapaciously toward it.
Sorry. The sermon application hit. Long years of practice and habit. I know today we are supposed to let people draw their own conclusions.
I just hope we come to the right conclusions. You know, for the kids.