My parents’ generation were raised by the generation who not only lived through the War, but rebuilt the world after the war was won. They told their children that, in this New World rising from the ashes, they could achieve anything, if they were prepared to work hard for it, to make sacrifices.
My parents’ generation were the most liberated generation the world had ever seen. For the first time, a generation went to university: young women, as well as young men; those from middle-class families, not just the elite. For the first time, the possibility of a career opened up for women: not a level playing field, but not merely filling-in in the boys’ absence either.
My parents’ generation set out on a life where, through hard work and given time, they expected to go from a junior position to a senior one; from a small salary to a larger one; from a small house to a larger and larger-again one, perhaps downsizing in a comfortable retirement. They expected not only to have prospects, but for their prospects to be satisfying. Such was the manifest destiny of the children of Giants.
Except that it didn’t quite work out like that. Not for everyone. Not even for the majority. Because life is simply more complex and more fragile than that.
My parents’ generation raised my generation to believe that we could be anything we wanted to be. Invent, and, if need-be, re-invent ourselves. (Sometimes they added that failure to do so would be to betray them.) There were no givens anymore: liberation birthed even greater liberation. There were no longer any constraints, not even the ones that had always been assumed (never mind being constrained by cultural gender roles – we are no longer constrained by birth gender).
Except that it didn’t quite work out like that. Not for everyone. Not even for the majority. Because there are certain givens, for each one of us, even if what the givens are is no longer a given.
We are not masters of our own destiny. That experiment hasn’t worked well for us. It has resulted in a lot of carnage.
It is not that dreams are wrong. Just that the ladder goes down as well as up.
It is not that dreams are wrong, necessarily – although misplaced dreams will lead to disillusionment. Just that God and his angels are as sure-footed moving downward as they are upward. That our ups and our downs, our moving forward and our stuck in a moment we can’t get out of, are accompanied. We are not alone in the world.
It is not that dreams are wrong. Just that God’s dream for us is bigger than ours – bigger than that of our parents. At one and the same time, less self-centred and more positioning us at the very heart (centre) of blessing for everyone. Again, we are not alone in the world.
It is not that dreams are wrong; but God holds out something different to us: total commitment, through thick and thin – and a part in a Story that precedes and will outlast every other story we tell ourselves, or the next generation.