The 1956 all-white Chevrolet station wagon with a 265-cubic-inch engine and a four-barrel carburetor glistened. My father knew what I could afford and after asking around had located a suitable vehicle. Off to college in the fall of 1966, I landed a job at St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf as a resident counselor. The position would cover the cost of four years of undergraduate studies at St. Louis University plus provide my room and board. It required a car, though.
As a mechanic my dad had already inspected the car. If there had been any dickering about the price he had taken care of that too. Basically when it came right down to it I suppose I could have refused the deal. Given my own busy summer job schedule and real lack of any automotive knowledge that move would not have been smart. I paid the $225 asking price and had my first car.
Needing to earn as much money as I could before I left for university allowed me no time off. This made the yearning for a road trip in my very own car that much keener. The first of very many 400 kilometre drives across Missouri from Kansas City to St. Louis on Interstate 70 would eventually come and it heralded many other adventures with that Chevy.
High school graduations and proms across the Yukon this June mark a definitive step towards adulthood for yet another class of our youth. The world they have inherited from us stands on the edge of greater possibilities and calamities than I could have imagined at their age. What are they yearning for?
Niles Goldstein, a Jewish rabbi and author from New York City writes in Craving the Divine that “Yearning can dangerous. But a dissatisfaction with what is, and a craving for what might be are fundamental aspects of being human.” Rabbi Goldstein continues: “Some thinkers on evolution have argued that humanity’s extraordinary success as a species is rooted in its discontent, which drives us to use our imagination and inventiveness to survive and conquer.”
The outlines of future that this year’s graduating class has before it are becoming apparent. Climate change, loss of biodiversity, resource depletion, and a world of bloody, endemic conflict mark one side of the 21st-century ledger book we are passing on to them. A continuing communications revolution, technological ingenuity, increased cross-cultural awareness and understanding together with an emerging environmental consciousness may balance the global equations in it.
What visions do they have to guide them on the journey they are beginning?
Niles Goldstein experienced a personal transformation that allowed him to shift his perception of the world. “Developing the capacity to view existence as a context for hope rather than despair, as a place of abundance rather than as absence, is a cause for profound gratitude,” he stated.
After wandering in our own personal deserts or collectively as humanity adrift on a vast sea of denial and purposeful obfuscation, will we be able to help them make it to a just, environmentally sustainable Promised Land?
Individually Rabbi Goldstein has faith “in the human ability to find a more tranquil home in the midst of the perplexities and vicissitudes of life.” Collectively can we aspire to anything less? Hopefully our youth are yearning for a different road than the one they have been led down so far.
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.