Evo, Devo, Revo

The efficacy of evolutionary processes depends entirely upon the perspective and values of the observer, mirroring in biology what Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle posited in physics.

Case in point: my children, in their third and fourth decades have, in my belief, already surpassed me (in my seventh decade) in the qualities and characteristics I deem desirable to a rich and fulfilled expression of authentic humanity. I do not doubt but that nature and nurture both come into play as they had the benefit of their mother’s genetic disposition toward acceptance and patience (supplementing my characteristics favoring assessment and urgency), and the experience of Rectory living which has as a constant interface continual encounter with all sorts and conditions of folk. My wife and my shared commitments to fundamental tenets of faithful living (love God, love people being chief among them) were always held as a high aspiration in our home, if not a completely ubiquitous practice, creating an atmosphere that shaped their early lives.

The acquisition of things never played much of a part in our home as there was little resource with which to acquire and when there was some acquiring of items considered necessaries by friends or parishioners, it invariably was attended by a sense of having been extravagant, sometimes to the point of foolhardiness.

It came as no surprise to me that each of our three daughters have pursued careers short on compensation but long on service to others. They each reached their decisions at different times and through differing processes of discernment, but have all embraced professions that define them and which they, with remarkable proficiency and dedication, will help to further. However, their vocational choices, while being consistent with the worldview of the nuclear family from which they emerged, is only a small part of their evolution beyond their parent. As persons, they are within themselves so many of the things I always longed to be but so frequently have proven myself not to be. While I could be understandably parental and match characteristics with them individually, I will content myself in saying that they possess a passion for and willingness to act for justice that I often admired and so frequently let pass. They display a generosity of hand and heart that convicts my possessiveness as evidence of underdevelopment. Their glad and nonjudgmental acceptance of those who differ so radically from them displays obvious growth over my inclination to associate with beings like self. In these, and in so many other ways, it is apparent to me that they have successfully moved through my Beta phase to a fully functioning version 2.0.

But I have to admit not only my bias, but also the fact that I see these things from a particular perspective: one that places the highest value on those characteristics. In truth, I find myself in a world that values these things less and would point to my children as examples not of progress, but of devolution. They are, after all, not dedicated consumers. They are not committed to amassing wealth. They are not so much interested in who loves them (evidently America’s new immigration test), but rather who they love. They value the honest expression of their perceptions and commitments over pronouncements crafted to incite or appease. They spend their non-employment discretionary time giving rather than getting. They don’t dress like anyone in the advertising pages of magazines and tend to accessorize from places like Goodwill. The only things they consider precious are their family members, friends and animals. And that’s not success in America anymore.

Ultimately, time determines that which improves and that which devolves, what survives and what faces extinction, but I fear that without another lution we may see the end of the qualities and characteristics I see in my daughters and those like them as the nation and the world hurtle toward self-serving isolationism. In the time I have left, I commit to working toward those things for which my daughters stand in hopes that I may still may grow.