I see you! January 1, 2049
Greetings from my home on The New Connecticut Coastline.
A few days ago, we gathered with our daughter and her children to witness the opening of a time capsule that was planted in our town green thirty years ago this week.
As the masons unearthed the time capsule, the gathering chattered away musing about the contents stored inside. With a few good strokes of a hammer that broke free from it many seasons of soil and roots, the lead mason opened the vessel. She placed it on a table and our town’s first selectwoman gathered some of the young children present to see first-hand what lay inside.
With great anticipation, the crowd fell silent.
It’s not important what lay inside the time capsule. But the printed edition of the local paper dated December 30, 2018 offered up a sobering look back at a nation and world in despair. The youngest members of our town who were present for the unearthing seemed bewildered and unexpectedly frightened. Out of fear, they clung to their plush toys and parents.
I won’t read you the headlines. As I recall back in the day, few escaped the news that blasted from so many personal devices. And few of us agreed on what was and wasn’t news…or fact.
What I do recall most about our lives 30 years ago was how anxious we felt, how none of us escaped the bellowing leader who tweeted so much that we turned away in horror.
Twitter is still a thing…but now the company is known for holistic wellness. They are doing quite nicely.
What I want to convey to you is that, for the most part, the future is going to work out well. And some things in your lives will work out quite brilliantly.
Yeah, the leader who acted like MacBeth boiled hotter than the contents of the three witches’ cauldron. But like all hot things, unless they have a constant source of fuel to energize them, the fury ends.
His brand, his likeness, his wall, HIS NAME— they hardly enter into our consciousness.
Except for that most obvious MacBeth comparison to him. That stuck to him like Velcro and most performances of that Shakespeare tragedy employ an actor in the lead role who looks and bellows like him.
But enough about him. We learned that the best way to treat a bully is to completely ignore the bully.
So, what’s life like now?
Well, human caused climate change WAS a thing, after all. The Connecticut coastline where we live lies about 5 miles north of where it was 30 years ago. That’s not a good thing. But one really good thing is that we have mastered the creation of energy that doesn’t cause waste or airborne emissions of any kind. We all have ample energy to live our lives comfortably.
That MacBeth like leader set us back many years in our quest for resource sustainability and what you back in the day called clean or green energy. But the short term existential crisis he accelerated got our great minds focused on achieving great breakthroughs and wonderful outcomes.
Our crisis was like the 1960s race to the moon you all learned about in school. Energy is now affordable and plentiful. And it happened because we had no choice but to act and innovate.
What we think of health and wellness has changed a lot in 30 years. Doctors, like our old friend Charles Glassman MD, take time with their patient-partners — yep, that’s what we’re called — to achieve good and sustainable health outcomes. Sometimes we take medicines when all else fails to provide a positive result. But most often what works best for us is prescribed rest, restorative nutrition, and laughter.
Both of my hips blew out about 10 years ago, but the surgery I had was minimally invasive. I’m not going to get into too much detail about my new hips other than to say that Vibranium IS a thing. It has replaced titanium as the lead material in joint replacement. And there is an unexpected benefit: we old folks who’ve gotten new Vibranium joints have rediscovered adolescent friskiness. Let’s leave the rest to your imagination.
I am 87 years old now and feel quite well. While we have our own space to live, our community is an exact replica of the summer camp that I attended as a child. Many of my camper friends are here, too, and we live among many young people. That’s more the rule of contemporary society in 2048 than the exception because living in a age-blended community lets us all live better, healthier, and happier lives.
A childhood friend of mine died last week from laughter. He was 85 and the cause of death posted on his death certificate was cardiac arrest due to laughter. We should all be so lucky.
How we get around has changed so much from your day. And yes, that transportation equity thought-leadership that my friend Dr. Richard Ezike championed thirty years ago has really helped get the tech right to move all people — young and old, urban or rural — where they want to go and when they want to get there. We hardly ever have traffic jams or delays. Getting around seems like that really old cartoon, The Jetsons — kinda sorta. And being viable as an old person no longer relies on one’s ability to “drive at night.”
There have been other important changes, too. We achieved gender parity in our politics long ago. And we stopped counting our female presidents soon after the third one assumed office. Actually, there are now more women in elective office than men. And, the women ushered in a new age of representation that’s less about scoring points and more about achieving positive outcomes; that historic pivot is a major part of our secondary school government education. We resolved most of our military involvements after the second female president won reelection. We still pay federal taxes, but more spending goes to climate mitigation or education than to defense.
There have been so many other changes, but like with the unexpectedly positive effects of Vibranium I will leave the rest to your imagination, as well.
I see you!
What I think is most important for you to understand about the future is that we value presence. My opening salutation includes the expression “I see you.” This traditional African greeting is now a customary daily greeting around the world. Aloha also means “I see you.” So does “Shalom.” We learned long ago that acknowledging another this way would help eliminate the discord and strife that you, 30 years ago, felt.
Our new found presence had its foundation in thought-leadership relayed by my old friend Adrienne Shoch. What she once described to me as a “five-to-one” process meant that in any interaction with people, we must offer five positive impressions of another person before offering them one criticism. Five-to-one helped us break the tribalism that you all endured daily in 2018. This positive transformation didn’t galvanize overnight, but it progressed quickly — like in five or ten years time. Now, in 2048, it is a well established part of our community engagement.
We may still say goodbye to one another, but we also say that we wish to see each other again, soon.
Life in 2048 is not entirely happy for there are some people we encounter that are misanthropic or toxic in their belief and manner. It is our custom to say to them “I don’t see you” or “I don’t see where you are coming from.” Encountering toxic people, while rare for us, still has a palpable effect on our senses. Soon after such an encounter, we may immediately seek comfort in others who do “see us.”
Last, and to my great pleasure, most people in 2048 do the work of their dreams. When big companies of your day departed from communities that required them to pay their talent living wages rather than minimum-wage, the laid off members of the companies eventually pivoted to some kind of meaningful work that they chose for themselves. There are fewer big companies now than there were in your day — although we still have Amazon and Netflix — and work has become for most people profound, meaningful, and fun.
We do experience loss. There are so many loved ones that we no longer see because they have departed this life. But we hold them close in our memories; we see them in our dreams and we will look forward to seeing them again when our lives end.
You are not able to see us in the future, but we in the future see you. Know what we know: YOUR best days lie ahead.
DAN SMOLEN is executive producer and host of the podcast, The Tightrope with Dan Smolen. Listen and subscribe to us by keywording “The Tightrope with Dan Smolen” on Apple Podcasts. Also, please rate us and offer suggestions for future guests and topics.
Photo credit: The Future, iStock Photo.