Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rising to the Occasion of Our Future

Today, I listened to Arianna Huffington deliver a speech to the 2013 Florida Leaders Summit. She was amazing.  The title of her speech was technology and journalism.  But the real meat of her speech for me, was on integrity, responsibility and vision.

She spoke of the speed of technological change, the balance of a meaningful life, and the inclusion of the elderly back into the family and not in far away congregate living.  She said that studies show the active giving person has less risk of Alzheimer's disease.  She spoke of education and her mother's sacrifice to educate her and her sisters.  Who knew she came from a lower income working family.

She is inspiring as a leader and as a woman of conviction for family, freedom and happiness.  I appreciated her coming to Florida, where the headlines always seem to be so unfavorable.

Her speech reminded me of the article in the WSJ A Full Life to the End article, where the daughter explains the mother's choice to not go to the hospital.  Not to go to extraordinary lengths.  Not to accept a prolonged death.  She chose instead to accept a lucid, shorter life.  She chose to be here fully, rather than be here longer in part.

And in a way, it parallels what Arianna said today.  Technology is fabulous and it is changing the world.  Soon, machines will do most, if not all of the menial labor.  Education on the net will be accessible to more than ever.  Travel and international interaction will increase more than ever.  But what happens to us as families and people?  Does making access to the internet or online education easier make it better?  Does the income gap increase or decrease?

As a mother of the Y generation, the spoiled and lazy generation, the smart and gifted generation, I think, do they care about this?  Can they see and hear what may be lost?  Will we end up with people sitting at computer screens instead of living life? And where will I be in this mix?

The theme is always: we compromise the good we know for the new and shiny.  We are Americans. We want new, fast, better, more, and more.  We go to MCDonalds, when we could make dinner.  We stress maximum participation in organized sports or activity, instead of individual freedom and discovery of the backyard; we use phone conversation instead of face to face dialog.  We are too connected; we check in too often, not allowing mistakes to happen and consequences to follow.  We drink water from bottles, when cups would do.  We make money doing anything and everything and we fall for trends.  We fall because we have no tradition.

America is young relatively speaking.  Growing up in the south, tradition is part of your upbringing.  Please and thank you and yes Ma'am (no ma'am was never something offered to me) /I have photos of funerals.  Old people talk about funerals.  Death is part of the life we live.  But, I find that the tradition is not the same for our youth. Old people don't live with the family.  They move to the extended care home.  My own mother in law and father in law decided to move to an end of life care facility, only to have my father in law die in a hospital.  Their best intention of not wanting to be a burden to the family, put them far away from us who want to see them and include them.  A different burden.  And while I don't want to say that all families should live together, I do think it is a good idea to have them close.

I think the past should be passed on, and the best way to do that is to have multi generational interactions.  The best way to do that is the old way of passing on tradition. Even if it is modified.  Why do Americans jump at new and cast away the old?  The spirit of the quest.  The new adventure. The go west young man mentality.

But we are better than that.  We can seize the moment and embrace the past.  We can accept technology, and include the physical environment.  We can be on line and and still actually touch each other.  So, I guess the end is the beginning, and I am suggesting that we listen to Arianna, and include our whole family, include the environment and the internet.

I am suggesting that America should set some traditions, and that the tradition should be to not throw away the past, while embracing the cowboy technology future.  And to thank a cowboy leader, Arianna gave out her email address :

Thanks to Arianna and to Katy Butler.