I was sitting in bed the other night reading Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee, the 1999 Booker-prize-winning novel about a South African "communications" professor who leads a life that's pretty empty of meaning ... and pays a heavy price for it. There must have been something Coetzee wrote that triggered my curiosity.
Whatever it was, it made me look up from my book, turn to B and ask, "So tell me what you think. If we went to sleep tonight and woke up 50 years from now, would we find that the country is better off than it is now, or worse off?
She thought for a moment, then said ...
Well, what do you think? Will all our problems be solved, or will we have a lot of the same problems, plus a bunch of new ones?
B is not a cynic; she has a relatively sunny personality; she is not a negative thinker. But it didn't take her long to answer: "Worse off."
I didn't say anything. I just went back to reading my book, and then fell asleep. But her response disturbed me. I admit I do not go around from day to day thinking deep thoughts, or worrying about the future. But I guess I just assume that we will solve the issues around global warming, energy and the environment. I believe that 50 years from now ISIS will be a history trivia question, that most people will be living longer and better lives. Am I being naive?