Religion. Politics. Gender roles. Abortion. None of this matters. I’ll get to why in a minute, but first I need to start with a story.
The last time I was home for any significant amount of time, longer than three days, I stopped by my grandparent’s house. The place had not changed much from what I remember growing up. There was still the blue paint, the well taken care of lawn, and the wooden Green Bay Packer player cutout hand painted by Grandpa himself and prominently displayed on the front lawn, amongst the myriad of other wooden crafts for sale.
I walked in to the garage like I always do, knocked and yelled, then just let myself in. That was always easier than waiting for one of them to get up from the living room chairs and open the door.
I found grandma and grandpa where I always find them, sitting next to each other in the living room, grandma knitting and grandpa with a newspaper either on his knees or on the floor next to him with sports on the television
The conversation started as it always did. “How are things?” “Finally, you’re home for a bit. How long are you here?” “Is work going well?” We cover the gamut of information related to me before I start grilling them.
“Grandpa, lawn looks nice. How much time it take to get it to look like that?” “Knitting me something grandma?” “Grandpa, sold any Packer crafts lately? Those things have to sell good around here.” The conversation continues. Lots of catching up, small talk, and such. But, we never cover anything controversial. No politics. No abortion. No gender roles.
In fact, I cannot ever remember them covering such topics. Is this because they do not care about future generations or the world? Not at all. I think that with age comes an understanding that most of the stuff we spend so much time caring about matters much less than we think it does, and there comes a point where energy is better spent elsewhere. Age brings an understanding of our constantly dwindling time and puts in perspective our priorities.
We are just the latest generation struggling to change things. If changing these large, controversial topics was so important to our survival than we would have solved all of the issues we have been arguing about as humans for the past 20, 30, 40 years already.
I watched a presidential debate from the 70’s a while back and one of the candidates said, “America needs to decrease its dependence on oil. We must become a self- sustaining country.” Mind you, this was a presidential debate from the 80’s. Today we find ourselves confronting the same issues that previous generations did. But, as we wrestle these issues new generations have sprung up and we haven’t killed ourselves yet. Life goes on; it must.
Religion, Politics, Gender Roles…They Don’t Matter
So, maybe the issues we think matter do not matter much. Or maybe the issues we talk about are mere pipe dreams meant to push the barometer of progress but never reach a conclusion.
Maybe all of this focus on controversial things is just a form of spectatorship, like the super bowl or March madness. Maybe not. I’m not sure. I’m not saying these controversial topics aren’t important, but what matters more than talking and arguing about things is doing.
In a few weeks my grandparents celebrate 65 years of marriage. 65 years! At my current age, reaching that longevity with another person is nothing more than a slim possibility for me. My grandpa built his house. I don’t even own a house.
There is something to be said for just getting out there and taking action. No protest marches. No reading more self help books. No chatroom or blog post arguments with people you have never met and will never meet. Just action.
Going out there, screwing some things up, but getting some of it right too. And maybe looking back at your life in 65 years, surrounded by your offspring, and knowing that in the end most of the things we worry about, argue over, and stress on don’t matter.