This episode of Living Myth begins with a report that shows that younger people, voting in larger numbers, made the difference in an election that many viewed as a struggle for the future of democracy and the direction of modern culture. At the same time, a large study found that as people become older they tend to go from being optimistic about the future to being realistic about the present, and from there to being pessimistic about the future.
The tendencies towards pessimism become more pronounced in times of uncertainty and radical change, as many seek to return to idealized visions of the past. The trouble now is that the radical changes affecting and threatening all levels of nature and all aspects of culture make a return to the past, not just unwise, but also impossible.
Michael Meade turns to old ideas that show how a culture renews itself from both the dreams of young people and the visions of the elders. Traditional societies around the world had the idea that youth and elders were secretly connected through a deep sense of imagination that can hold past and future together. Seen that way, finding visions that heal the divisions in society and help realign human culture with nature cannot be the sole burden of young people.
When older people act out of self-interest or fear, they fail to have foresight and genuine vision. They also fail to make the kind of sacrifices that connect them on one hand to young people, and on the other hand to wise ways of thinking and understanding. The idea is not simply to age well, but to become wise in ways that draw upon the archetypal knowledge that sustained our ancestors and can also provide guidance for the future.
When we find ourselves at the end of an era, when even the young can feel older than they otherwise would be, it becomes important to reconnect to the capacity for genuine vision that exists in each person. For, imagination can go places that logic does not know and that fear fails to find. Youth and elders meet in places where imagination blossoms and the inner eyes of the soul open to genuine visions that can unite the old with the new, the past with the future.