Last week there were lots of fiftieth anniversaries. Fifty years since the deaths of JFK, C. S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley and fifty years since the first Doctor Who episode. All this happened twice my lifetime ago. Today, much is still the same as it was then, but there have been changes.
Compared to fifty years ago my childhood had less skylarks than my parents' did, less fields to play in and more cars; but also more access to knowledge, more sights of far away lands and unimagined creatures. Today there are more nature reserves, but is this because we value our nature more or because these are the only islands we have left in our world where nature can remain? We have so much more of almost everything than fifty years ago. More people, more televisions, more food (for some of the world), more hunger (for other bits of the world), more knowledge, more travel, more communication. But you can't just have more, we still only have twenty four hours in each day, what have we given up for all of this more? Recent studies indicate that over the last fifty years the proportion children playing in natural spaces has dropped by as much as seventy five percent. So for every four children running around in fields, rivers, beaches and woods when Doctor Who first aired there is now only one child today.
I expect JFK and Huxley have somehow affected my life, perhaps by affecting my parents lives (they were in primary school all that time ago), but I am certain that C. S. Lewis and Doctor Who have helped to shape who I am today. Both the Narnia series and Doctor Who tell stories of escaping to another world, full of wonder and adventure and where battles can be fought and won and where hard decisions for good must be made. These are elements from any good children's story. In fifty years time I want my future children and grandchildren to have these stories too. I want them to wonder at worlds far beyond our reach and imagine what dangerous adventures they might go on in the future. But I don't want that wonder to just come from a screen or a book. I don't want to tell them tales of why the hedgehogs disappeared or explain what a tree house was.
Whenever we imagine the future, we want to imagine it brighter, cleaner, safer and better for our children. That's the image that I hear people talk about when they talk about JFK's potential legacy. It would have been better if....
But the future we give to our children is whatever we can manage to make it. It's not something to be imagined it's something to be made. My children will run around in fields, they will see creatures they have never imagined and they will reach for the stars, because I will show them how and because my parents showed me how. But if we don't try, if we don't open the doors to the fields, or take the time to show them a daisy, a hedgehog or a skylark, how will they learn?
We are the children which the past produced, whether it was fifty or ten years ago. Our children stories have taught us to fight for good, to make hard decisions for a better future and take ownership of our lives. All we have to do is make those stories reality, fight for the best bits of life and our planet and protect them. If we can do that, then who knows how good the next fifty years might be?