What a nice poem this morning, “For My Daughter in Reply to a Question,” though we infer that it must have been a troubled question. The poet reassures his presumably quite youthful and disturbed inquisitor that life is good and long, that “your children will be my grandchildren,” that we each offer unique gifts (“There’ll never be another as you and never another as I”), that all is not vanity (“We will not be forgotten and passed over and buried under the births and deaths to come”). That last stanza, dubious as it is, expresses something a young person needs to hear: the procession of lives in the midst of which we wake to find ourselves is no mere death march, it’s the walk of life.
Another side of the story, which an older person needs to hear, is told by Susan Jacoby in Never Say Die, wherein which she challenges our culture’s infatuation with endless youth in a “new old age.”
And James Howard Kunstler is also onto something important, in his History of the Future. We must recognize the continuity between our own brief lives and our species’ distant prospect, lest through inaction and inattention we irreparably compromise the life-conditions of both. The idea that only “now, always” matters is irresponsible and self-defeating.
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