The Future Is In Need of Defenders

On a hot and damp summer morning, my father and I are at breakfast talking about the future.

He had written in an email that the future may need defenders. I’m figuring out what that means.

Coffee is poured. A teabag drops into a mug. I look up the etymology of future (going backward to go forward, I suppose). “Yet to come” and “a time after the present.” And then the root: “to be, exist, grow.”

I have read that the work of younger generations is to take the progress of older generations and build on it, often rendering older generations gobsmacked. “Gen X/Millennials/Gen Z are so….” they shake their heads.

Fruit, bacon, toast arrive. A defender of the future is someone who isn’t scared of change, I try out, better is excited about change. They aren’t nostalgic or sentimental for a time that memory polished up to make shinier than it actually was.

Sometimes the future is bleak, my father points out. The rise of dictators and tyrants, for example. I nod. I feel out of my depth.

I think about how Parker Palmer wrote that we each live at the intersection of our small daily world and the larger life of the world.

The future is not solely The Future for all 7.5 billion of us. It’s also our individual life in four minutes, eight days.

Maybe a defender of the future is someone who is working to make what comes next what they hope it will be, I say to my father. Someone who believes in the future’s possibility and shows up to make possibility reality. Sweeping legislation counts. So, too, do the human-scale gestures of daily life — holding doors and supporting colleagues’ new ideas.

Breakfast is done now. I have more to figure out. What I’m clear on, though, is that a defender of the future, whatever the anatomy, is someone I want to be. Not a head-shaker or keeper of rigid habits. But mind and hands open to make the next moment worthy of human life.

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