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Thursday, May 11, 2006

cover of Tomorrow Happens

A collection of essays and short stories asking questions about the future. About our world -- where we have come from, where we are going, how we are going to get there. These are good questions, asked in interesting ways, which makes them all the more palatable instead of frightening. Recently at church, we've been talking about the end times, and that the world is getting worse in many ways, so we need to be ready for the end. Which was an intriguing contrast to this book with ideas stretching far into the future. A strong tension -- but both have things to teach us today.

One idea that asks more thought is that of human purpose. Say that we do succeed in making the world a better place, a place that most, if not all, individuals have a chance to live and also to enjoy life. If there was then a generation that has everything they need and everything they want, what would they do with their time? Seems like there are a lot of people who are striving for the next best material thing to own or control. But what if they got all they wanted? How much more valuable to have a purpose, a calling, a vision -- than to have things, money, power.

Another piece is historical fiction (heavy on the fiction part), which asks the question of what one individual can affect. This idea keeps coming back to me in one form or another. My favorite ways of thinking about it is 'good ripples' and 'bad ripples' (thanks to Joan of Arcadia). Humans to have deep affects on others, regardless of their power. So often we get trapped by the idea that to have an impact we need to be powerful, have a strong influence, or control something. But sometimes all we need to do is be consistent in our choices and attitudes. Choosing well at most opportunities (good to strive for all, but that doesn't seem possible...) gives those around us hope of a different reality. I may not have brilliant ideas, but I can take what I believe and actually try to live it out. Asking questions that don't have easy answers seem like a good way to keep myself humble -- seeing myself clearly, being willing to learn from others, being excited when others are challenged to become more like Christ through me.

An essay titled 'The Self-Preventing Prophecy' also caught my attention. What an interesting idea that one way to help our world is to share stories of what could be. For example, Orwell's 1984 helped society to fear such intrusive objects and power, so that it hasn't happened. Other movies and books about our environment and what it is in danger of becoming have given environmentalists and others cause to care, and to act. There are places throughout the world that nature is being cared for well, and one could argue that this has something to do with the fear of what could be shown in stories. Often individuals become what they hear about themselves. If kids are constantly told by their parents, siblings, teachers, friends that they are dumb, they live down to that expectation and do poorly in school. But every once in a while, an individual (or society, or world) comes along that has enough courage and strength to fight that expectation and do the opposite. May we be such a society, and such a world -- that we are able to live into the good ideals and prove wrong the pessimistic prophecies.

Title:Tomorrow Happens
Author:David Brin
Date published:2003
Genre: Science Fiction - Essays & Short Stories
Number of pages: 219


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