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i'm not very good at nor do i enjoy small talk. for this reason before i head into a situation where small talk looks likely i come equipped with a conversation starter. something canned and appropriate for the group. last week we went camping with seven other families. this has become something of an annual tradition and for the most part, this is the only time i see these folks each year. there were fourteen adults and nineteen kids. to such events, some people bring board games, i bring conversational kindling.

the week before going on this outing i ran across an interesting question on the net. the question was this: our grandparents were racist. our parents were homophobic. what social-ill will our generation be known for (by, say, our grandchildren)? now some terms. obviously it's not saying 100% of folks out there are guilty of whatever it is, just most the folks so no need to jump to the defense of your kin or yourself. and to simplify the question, we're looking for something that virtually all of us do or believe in and don't think there is anything wrong with or problematic about.

upon first hearing the question, most people ask for examples. the website had listed some of the top responses they had received to date so i would share those. they listed things like monogamy, the consumption of meat, drug-use, our imprisonment model. although, before i would give anyone a clue of any sort they had to give me at least one guess. i had floated the question out to a couple sets of folks at the camp out. the circles of people bandied the question about and built off one another's thoughts. it sure beat hearing about how so and so's job is going.

on the second day out, i found myself next a philosophy professor. he was sitting in front of a campfire and looked lost in a thought. taking the seat next to him i waited for a break in his concentration. when he finally turned my way i told him i had a riddle or question for him. he leaned forward a touch and asked what it was. i told him. his answer came almost before i finished posing the morsel. there wasn't a pause. there wasn't a request for a hint or an insight into what others had said. he responded with a rapidity and assuredness like i asked him his middle name. what he said was, "we will be remembered as the pigs. the gluttonous, greedy, need-it-all people who consumed at a break-neck pace and never paused long enough to contemplate wether we needed what we were after or not."

well then. his response was interesting in several regards. first, his response encompassed many other people's answers but in a more meaningful way. such as, someone had posited that we'd be remembered for all the trash we amassed. another spoke of our transportation modes and our need for private automobiles. another spoke of diet. mr professor though captured all of this and plenty more in his single missive. secondly, this man is a published author and has a flair for delivering thoughts in a eye-catching way, thus the pigs comparison. when i commented on the speed in which he responded he sat back, shrugging it off and said it's the sort of thing he's paid to think about all the time so i shouldn't be overly impressed.

when i told marty of my question, it reminded her of an interview she heard where a woman was talking about the long-standing american tradition of parents trying to equip their children to do better than they (the parents) had done in life. there was a time this hope strove for things like education, and safe/secure employment. the person being interviewed commented on how this tradition had somewhere along the line morphed into three car garages and mcMansions in the burbs. she went on to wonder if our collective eye had lost track of the ball. according to the philosophy prof we're too busy playing with or acquiring our stuff to consider it it's what it is all about or not. should this legacy pan out, i for one am not too stoked to be part of it.

JUN2009

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