Here we are in 2020. It may sound silly but I keep thinking about The Jetsons, a space age cartoon that originally aired in the early 1960s. That era seemed to be marked by a fascination with space and the future. The Seattle World’s Fair in 1962 was called “The Century 21 Exposition” and was filled with interactive displays imagining what the future might look like. The decade culminated with the US putting the first human on the moon in 1969.
There’s something inspiring and exciting about this to me. To be in a time and place where people were visioning forward while at the same time searching out ways to bring the future into the here and now. What new things can we create now to change the landscape of tomorrow? It feels hopeful.
I sometimes call myself a romantic cynic. Although this can be challenging for me it also keeps me from going too far in either direction. I want to dream and imagine but I also want to keep it real and grounded. But there’s something in the air these days that brings out more of my cynicism and I don’t think I’m alone. Whether it’s looking at world events, thinking about the degradation of our climate and planet, or the state of our systems of care, it’s hard to not feel some despair and discouragement.
So, how do we get excited again? How do we acknowledge the things that are broken while not getting stuck there and giving up?
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint Exupery
To yearn – to long for – means being open to possibility. In order to be open to possibility we need to relinquish control and the idea that because “this is the way things have always been done” means we should always do them this way. If that were true then nothing would ever be invented. Our lives would never change. It’s The Flintstones instead of The Jetsons (as a side note, I enjoyed The Flintstones as much as The Jetsons, but I think you get the point). But what really stands out for me in Exupery’s quote is this: inspiration is what prompts action. If you long for the sea, you’ll want to build the boat. We need both, if we are to create change.
I’m not sure what all this means to you, but for me, I feel optimistic. I haven’t completely given up my cynicism because I’m just too pragmatic for that, but I feel myself coming back into balance. I’m inspired. The future isn’t just about tomorrow or 10 years from now: the future is now.