You have arrived on this Earth at a time of great change. Fortune is smiling on you.
- You are unlikely to be bored and if you are this will probably dissipate as global events of some significance become more impactful, locally visible, and dramatic.
- You are privileged and advantaged at a level that is far beyond the ken of the majority of other humans around the world, in that education is available to you, free health care is available, water, food, and somewhere safe to sleep are close by, and paid work of one kind or another is not too difficult to obtain if you really want it.
- You are, in the way we calculate these things, in your prime. Neither too young to have your freedom unduly corralled by adults who know what’s best for you, nor too old to be corralled by a modest pension, failing physical health, disintegrating good looks, an erratic memory, or the astonished disappointment of those who know that only a few grains of sand remain in the life-timer.
- You have been born at a time when you will have the opportunity to witness and participate in the greatest disrupted upheaval in Earth’s history since the disappearance of the dinosaurs.
Yet, of course, I don’t suppose that many of you feel overwhelmed with gratitude and joy for this once in a 65.5 million years opportunity. I guess we all have to admit that it’s complicated. A few hundred, some would say thousand, years ago, we began heading down a path that has been precisely charted by countless myths from countless cultures. We became seduced by our formidable capabilities and succumbed to hubris. By means of our brain’s giant frontal lobes, limitless ambition and ruthless execution, we have claimed the world as our own, while also exhibiting a curious and paradoxical rational dyslexia. Our capacity for cognitive reasoning, the opposable thumb, and dubious doctrines that have justified dubious actions, has inexorably taken us to the cliff edge. Even with the void clearly visible below, we remain intent on pursuing our doctrinal intention and voluntarily sky dive towards a level of suffering that will make the horrors of the 1st World War look like a modest, under budget training exercise.
Located in a theatre of vast proportion there are actors entering and exiting the stage, scratching their mark upon the tapestry of human endeavour. As in the final seconds of Anton Chekhov’s play The Cherry Orchard, the 87-year old retainer Firs, absently patrols an empty stage as we hear the sounds of axes biting deep into the soft tissue of orchard trees left with no protection. This is where you come in. Many of the play’s cast have left the stage for good. They didn’t have to; they just gave way under a story of hopelessness and confused hand-wringing. Some never hoisted the white flag, but they are few in number and the cavalry have yet to crest the brow of the hill. This is where you come in, if you wish. I hope you do. I have no patience with those of my generation who absolve themselves of responsibility by pompously announcing that ‘it’s up to the young people now’ as if they are retiring honourably from the battlefield after a lifetime of dedicated effort towards a peaceful, just, bountiful world. Some perhaps, but not most. The trees are falling while children are still being born. How looks a world without trees? Is not this Earth an orchard of indescribable beauty, fecund with delights that properly nurtured need never cease? At least for another 65.5 million years. We humans are part of a larger family, the family of life on Earth. That family is calling to us, sending their voices from the depths of the oceans, from the heights of the mesosphere, from the four great directions, billions of voices chorusing an entreaty.
‘Come home, humans, come home again. You are part of this great circle and we are broken without you. Come home, and take your place in the scheme of things once more.’
This is where you come in. I do so hope you do.
The thing is, your entry on to the stage may or may not be enough to stop the orchard’s destruction, but at the very least it will redeem the shame of a species that has broken faith with life. It may not be enough but there is good reason to believe that human ingenuity, absolute commitment, and the power of a people holding close to a vision may yet achieve what others have said is impossible. I don’t know, but I will shout a paean of fierce joy when I see your great strength align with the gathering tribe of diverse peoples claiming the right to replant this garden planet with beauty, with courage, and with love. Each of us has been given some time within which to deploy our gifts towards a purpose we consider to be worthy. Your gifts are manifold and sufficient to the task and time, but they must be deployed, swiftly, powerfully, imaginatively, joyfully, and peacefully. Now.