We live in the most peaceful age in human history. One of the great ironies of this progress is that our deepest worry is no longer death of our body, but death of our soul. We don't live in fear of bullets, starvation or disease. We do fear having lived an inconsequential life: dying without having ever really lived.
I preach the relentless pursuit of excellence and warn against traveling well-sterilized paths. I didn't spend my childhood on a carefully monitored playground, and albeit for reasons out of my control, the Ivy League education, comfortable job, and sensible marriage were never an option. Still, in less than 40 years, I have managed to figure out enough to carve out my little mark in human history. Not only that, but I reproduced too. And despite the post-divorce challenges inherent in being a part-time parent, I have constantly tried to provide my offspring with experiences of true intensity and meaning.
Still, when I look into their eyes, content that they are healthy and relatively happy, I wonder: Will they fall victim to that particular kind of depression and despair that persecutes those with peaceful, affluent lives? My own childhood was clouded by the specter of global nuclear annihilation. My impatience to get out there and see the world was existential. If I didn't rush, there might not be anything left to see.
My kids don't have the same urgency. Maybe things have been too peaceful for them.