Some thoughts on idealism, parenting, and being grandparents. Judy and I were not of the baby boomer generation. We got to watch babyboomers develop and fade away to those next “generations”. We were of the “beat” generation, sympathizers with Jack Kerouac and scruffy coffee house singers, I sometimes looked so scruffy (Judy never did) that panhandlers in downtown Chicago would simply ignore me as they plied their trade. We were on the road travelers who were cynical of the culture and cold war world around us,forever seeking that what we never really identified.
Fr. Ernesto was a baby boomer. His blog about idealism, parenting, and being grandparents had a somewhat different beginning, and yet has arrived at the same point that we, too, embrace. This article below sums up some perhaps universal insights, and I recommend you read the whole post.
One other credit. Fr. Ernesto provided me in my earliest posts with the scholarly hippo logo, so different from the “beat” young man of yore. Thanks, brother. Now, Father Ernesto –
A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.
As I [Fr. Ernesto speaking] was listening to this Peter, Paul, and Mary song on Sunday, I found myself with tears in my eyes. In part this did not surprise me. I am a proud Latino, that means that my original culture has taught me that I am allowed to be emotional, and my adopted culture (USA) has taught me that it is OK for men to cry. So, between one and the other, I had tears in my eyes. But, why did I have such a strong feeling? Well, I think for any of several reasons:
1. The song was written at a time of high idealism. Whatever one may think of all the mistakes that us babyboomers have made over the decades–and there have been many–the late 1960’s and early 1970’s were a time of high idealism in this country. From that time came movements such as the Jesus People, the modern Christian music movement, etc. I would argue that on the political front there was also a time of high idealism in which there was a hope of a change for the better. We did not notice at that time that people continued divided into “right” and “left” but it certainly was a time of high idealism. I admit it. I miss the idealism and the high hopes that were as common as breathing at that time. Our hope was not in the Lord, and so it was vain, but even as a false hope, it was hope of real change in this world. Yet, for all the mistakes we made, many of us would not be Christians if it were not for the radical Christianity that sprang up at that time.
2. But, we are now grandparents. I think that part of my tears were the sadness that every parent and grandparent has felt since the time of Adam and Eve. And this is the deeper sadness. We raise our children. We watch our children raise our grandchildren. If we are truly honest, we admit that within us there is the desire that none of our descendants go through what we have gone through. We want our children and grandchildren to remain innocent. Theologically we know that this is not possible, but we are like Adam and Eve, when we have our children, we hope that these are the children who somehow will stay in the innocence of the Garden of Eden. We groan and ache when we watch our children “learn” evil. We realize that the damage to our human nature is present in them also. And, so we watch another generation unable to avoid exactly the same mistakes we made, despite all our warnings and teaching. And so, as grandparents we learn even deeper what it means that Adam and Eve sinned and that we are fallen and damaged.
3. And, we are also older. That is what it means to be grandparents. That also means that every one of us who is a grandparent–or of that age–has watched a loved one die or has had a close friend die. We have learned the bitterness of sin. All of us are realizing, either in our own bodies or by watching our friends, that the curse of Genesis is still quite active. Sin has yet to meet its final defeat. Hell has been defeated; the door to Paradise is open; but death has yet to be fully defeated; we have yet to be fully redeemed. There still remains for us a hope that has yet to be fulfilled. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”
And so, it is only as we reach old age that we finally begin to truly understand the curse, that we truly begin to understand the loss of innocence that came as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. It is only now that we begin to fully realize that we, too, have followed Adam and Eve in their decision. But, to our own personal pain, it is only now that we begin to truly realize that we have passed on the curse to those whom we love most and love best, our children and grandchildren.
Yes, we have hope. Yes, we have been redeemed by Our Lord. But, it is only when one is older that one begins to understand why the Orthodox funeral liturgy has, at its beginning, passages that speak of the agony of death and the pain of sin. Yes, the service is filled with the hope of the Lord. But, that hope only makes sense if one fully understands the effect of the curse on Adam and Eve.
A dragon lives forever but not so little boys.
Pippin: I didn’t think it would end this way.
Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path… One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass… And then you see it.
Pippin: What? Gandalf?… See what?
Gandalf: White shores… and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
Pippin: [smiling] Well, that isn’t so bad.
Gandalf: [softly] No… No it isn’t.