This week’s Real Life Survival Guide touched on the issue of control, or rather the lack of it.
Like the rest of the largest demographic bulge in history, the Baby Boomers, born between 1945 and 1965 were considered by contemporary social evaluators to be the “best and the brightest.” As a generation, we drank in that hype with gusto and digested it into our egos, creating perhaps the perfect description of any population group, – the “Me” generation.
Conquering racism, sexism, the limitation of sex to marriage, rejecting homophobia, and championing the earth’s ecology, my generation not only felt that we had introduced the idea of recreational drugs into day-to-day life, but that we ended the Vietnam War by our exquisitely imperative presence.
Almost all of these revelations, while having some kernel of truth, speak more about the absurd megalomania of my peers than any real generational “triumphs.”
Given our mass ego bloat, it’s not surprising that our children seem to continue living under our outsized umbrella long after adolescence – where parental responsibility seems to have taken a good share of any sense of personal responsibility from our children. So with our generation’s outsized faith in the Power of Me is pretty easy to think that when things go well (or badly) for us, our children or our country, that it is “all about us”. Somehow, our triumphs and disappointments are seen to be effective barometers of how hard we have worked, or conversely, if things don’t work out the way we’ve planned, we proclaim the unfairness of it all.
As our hair either grows in places it shouldn’t, leaves places it should stay in, or changes color in ways that can’t possibly be appropriate, for some of us there is a growing understanding that what we think we can control is simply not controllable by any generation, even the “Me” generation.
As the vast majority of our offspring do not get into Harvard, as our physical appearance deteriorates despite all sartorial and physiological efforts, as many of us die too early (or, worse perhaps, appropriately) more of us begin to realize that the grading we gave all of our efforts was absurdly put on a curve (by us) in our favor.
We weren’t so much “kings of the world” as, as some of us have begun to realize, privileged just to be alive.
As many of our kids decide that “the perfect school” was ridiculously wrong and transfer, or (horrors!) decide not to finish college, or as some of us get seriously ill, the harsh reality that the vast majority of things that happen in our lives are controlled not by ourselves, but by larger wheels of science, luck and unknowable realities that we have absolutely no control over.
While that may take the burden of responsibility off our shoulders, maybe it gives us just enough humility that we can begin to take real joy in the opportunities that are afforded to us, and can come to know that we have no legitimate expectation of control, even given the mass “Me” of narcissistic delusion.
Duo Dickinson has written seven books on architecture. His latest, “Staying Put: Remodel Your House to Get the Home You Want”, was published by The Taunton Press in November 2011.
He has been the contributing writer for home design for Money Magazine, is the architecture critic for the New Haven Register, and a contributing writer in home design for New Haven magazine. He has written articles for more than a dozen national publications including House Beautiful, Home, Fine Homebuilding and was the “At Home” editor for This Old House.