Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Rip Tide

I need to begin this by saying that I hesitate to write what is going on in my brain. Sometimes I probably ought to listen to my hesitation. I only hesitate this week though because it's a heavy subject matter in my heart. You could even call it depressing. It's not very inspirational, but that being said, I think it's important. It's important because too many times we try to only focus on things that make us happy and encouraged and the rest of the world can go to Hell and we're okay with it. So anyway, It’s Summer at the beach. It seems as if anytime I pick up a paper or turn on a television I’m reliving a drowning somewhere. Some are not good swimmers. Some are delusional in their self perceived abilities. Some very capable accomplished swimmers just get carried away in a rip tide without warning. My beach has few of those dangers and therefore almost never experiences those tragedies, or so I thought. Last night I think that I was witness to the effects of a rip tide. Well sort of anyway. Actually it wasn’t the type that we read about along the ocean beaches. It was more of a cultural rip tide I guess. Last night, with record temperatures still lingering in the evening air, my wife and I decided to visit our favorite spot for a long romantic sunset walk along the beach. It was a bad idea, at least it was a bad Summer weekend idea. I’ve already journaled for you my disdain for the Summer flow that comes through here. Well at the time, I wasn’t even considering the weekend evening crowd. In our defense though, we thought that after 9pm on a Sunday night would be manageable. After all, these people must have jobs right? And surely if they had a respectable job to report to on Monday morning, then one would assume that one would go home at a reasonable hour. Two bad assumptions in one thought process are not a good thing.
Anyway…it allowed me to witness the effects of a cultural rip tide that I thought I’d been all too familiar with already. It saddens me deeply to realize the extent that I was wrong. And it saddens me even further that I didn’t do more to put up warning signs. Rip tides are usually almost invisible to the untrained eye. That is their danger. Well meaning and well intentioned people wander into them and don’t realize until it’s too late and they’re caught in the flow. The thing about a rip tide is that it chooses it’s victims randomly and without prejudice. People can be all along the beach, and only a small section might be at risk. The average person couldn’t tell you which section is which. But a trained eye can often detect them and warnings can be posted. I consider myself a somewhat trained eye in this case and I wonder now if I ever could have done more in the warning process.
So here’s what I’m referring to…. It’s a cultural rip tide that is pulling so many of our youngest, brightest, and most promising to disaster, while most of us watch like another reality program. As we attempted to walk through the business section along the beach, it was much like walking through a foreign land. You need to understand that I have walked this landscape for much of the last 20 years and even I didn’t recognize it. A side trip to Starbucks, the same one I sit at this morning, brought us right into the middle of it. There were islands of high school students scattered about as if in their own little countries. Each had their own obvious power structure. Each had their own purpose, Each however seemed to be in competition with the others in one way or another. They all seemed to have a gimmick or a routine in which to taunt the others into carrying out their own set of identification. So obvious the competition had become that there were security guards placed strategically among the mini nations. What is this world coming to when we need security guards at Starbucks. This is the same place that I sit this morning with bus drivers, dog owners, exercise fanatics, and lazy writers at their keyboards. Outside was even more hostile and foreign than the inside. High school girls with barely a thong on were displaying themselves innocently in and around the guys who hadn’t read the tags on their pants before they bought them. Couples were giving each other CPR in the midst and oblivious to those who were trying to wander by. Guys were trying to reason with and care for dates who had consumed a bit too much. I’ve not felt this old and detached in a long time, and it caused a great remorse. I still feel it this morning. It’s not a personal remorse, it’s a sort of corporate feeling. Someone owes this generation an apology and it’s not someone from their own group.
My generation are like the producers and directors of a grand play lived out on life’s stage. We set the mood, we select the costuming, we direct the dialogue and we wait for the reviews and more importantly the profits. The appalling thing is that then many of us, myself included, wander around mumbling in disgust about “these kids”. We are the ones who have created this or at least allowed it to be created. I don’t mean to take anything away from those who have or are currently investing their lives trying to speak truth into the lives of students. I applaud them. They are the ones still posting signs warning of the rip tide. And I know that despite my experience last night and the same one that will be lived out here nightly through the Summer, that many have seen the signs. I know many of them. I see them in some of the friends of my own kids. All of them have one thing in common. Someone somewhere have invested in their lives and led them with truth. To those people I extend a great admiration. But some others need to extend an apology and a realization of what we’ve done. As I walked last night, and as I sit here this morning, I just feel sorry. I feel sorry for the girls who get their esteem from a guys admiration of their bodies. I’m sorry that they bought in to it and I feel sorry for those who are desperate to achieve it. I feel sorry for those whose parents don’t care enough to have a clue what is going on in the precious life of their little girls. I feel sorry for those whose families are fractured and too exhausted picking up their own pieces that they can’t post signs for their own children. I’m sorry for guys who can’t exist on the same block if they happen to have been born into different school districts. I’m sorry for the drugs that they need and we supply to numb the effects of the lie that they’re living in. I realized that I must have become numb over time myself. I’ve become desensitized to death. I’ve seen so many individual people going down destructive roads that it has numbed me and I’m sorry that it seems to now take a mass tragedy to get my attention. It’s overwhelming. I’m sorry that I didn’t put up more signs.