Words to a Young Man

My son Philip is 16 years old. A few days ago we had a deep conversation about the future, about which he was feeling a persistent anxiety. Afterwards, I recorded some reflections on the conversation and put it on my sort-of-podcast called Charles Eisenstein Random, which is mostly excerpts from interviews and speeches. I’m sharing it more broadly because I think other young people, as well as those young at heart, share Philip’s anxiety and idealism. The recording is on this page.

Dropping in with Philip renews my optimism for this earth. When I was that age I had nothing remotely like his level of emotional intelligence, clarity, and sincerity of inquiry. I guess human consciousness is evolving after all! He isn’t the only young person who arouses that feeling, but he is the one I know best. The generation after mine seems to have been born into a consciousness that took my generation decades of struggle to barely achieve. For them it is second nature. When Philip says something like, “I’m trying to discern what is actually disrespectful behavior from what I’m projecting from my own resentment,” I’m like, wow, that thought literally did not exist in my peer group.

My older children (Jimi, 25, Matthew, 22) have been challenged to find their place in society. In darker moments I wonder if maybe I prepared them poorly for the real world. But I think the truth is that society doesn’t have a lot of ready-made places for the new generation, because existing institutions embody an old story, an old consciousness. So they have to create a new place for themselves, which often involves stretching or leaving the old structures. If the “real world” means a continuation of society as we have known it, then no, I don’t want to prepare them for it. I want to prepare them for the society that yet may be.

That society will only be, if we prepare for it.

Hey parents out there, let’s not try too hard to corral our children into the roles defined by the past. When they jump off the secure-future track, consider that there may be as much cause for celebration as for worry. When they spend their twenties living in our basements playing video games, let’s cheer their…. hold on, maybe I’m taking this too far. I’m not saying to retreat from the world, but to step into the new one that beckons. Maybe that does start by retreating, but that phase won’t last forever, because the life in us wants to live.

Philip’s anxiety wasn’t about how he is going to make a living. It was about whether there will be a future worthy of living in.