Jessica Lange recently gave a commencement address at my very own alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College. In the speech, which has been in the news because she criticized the Bush administration (why that's news is beyond me, doesn't everyone criticize the Bush Admin at this point?), she said the following:
"I believe you've come of age in a complex and confusing time. The commercial forces surrounding you, the absence of meaningful culture, the constant assault by media, fashion, and entertainment. We have become a society that is placated by gadgets, soothed by consumerism and the empty rewards of upward mobility, the celebration of mediocrity and false celebrity, the obscurations of modern life. We need a sea change."
Either Jessica Lange reads the Year of Frugal Living blog, or we're totally on the same page here. I'm really very moved by this statement. Yesterday at work I was reviewing a library conference brochure, and the title of the conference was "Growing Communities." I know this is not what they meant, but when I saw that I got this spark of thought about communities, gardening, raising children in a consumerist world, and how this might be the point when all of this changes. Time moves faster now, if you're 20 years old today you were 13 when 9-11 happened, 14 when we went to war, you've seen nearly two thousand people die during hurricane Katrina, the tsunami take out 294 THOUSAND people, now the cyclone in Myanmar and the earthquake in China... time is not the same for this next generation. iPods are meaningless when life has taken on a new reality, and whether you believe these natural disaster are caused by global warming or not, for our children we need to change our priorities and our way of life. I've said before that I don't mind the gas prices, and I mean it. They've recently added more commuter trains in my area because of them. Traffic is down. People are carpooling. I head some teenagers who were working at Walmart discussing riding their bikes to work because "it's only three miles and if gas prices go to 7 bucks, it'll be worth it." I smiled.
Getting back to growing communities, carpooling, food gardening (on the rise due to the economy, seed suppliers are having their best year in a long time. Buy stock in Burpee.), public libraries... they all build community. Our children are growing up in a generation that will realize the need for this, even the kids who work at the Walmart in my post-industrial New England town.
Perhaps the sea is changing.