The opposite of old, dumb, scared and mean


There are many things in the world to be afraid of. Tornadoes and floods deserve a thought, especially this year. Hurricanes, always. But the big damage is done by groups of people that are old, dumb, scared and mean, especially when all those objectives describe how they think about the future. Like a tornado, there is no arguing with them, just beware their random damage. But like a flood, their swath is predictable; you can usually stay out of the way. And keep on eye on the levees, especially behind the levees where dumbness tends to find a way under. I’m thinking of the silly foci of the anti-Muslim crowds in neighborhoods all over the world. This is the same bunch that wants to change the very structure of our civil society to protect us against people nobody should be afraid of at all. They are a civic sand-boil, not a levee break. But they are useful in reminding us of what the future is not about.

What is the future about and how can we get there? Well, you could look through young lives that are the opposite of old, dumb, scared and mean. The (first!) Summer Youth Conference on UNITY and HOPE, attracted youth and adults (who are fit to be with youth!) in a feast of smart discussion and action, all about the world that should comes next. The future isn’t exactly dazzling when it first becomes visible. The line up deserved 2,000 people and we had a cozier group of about 150. But then again, the Dalai Lama didn’t fill up the place either (Memphis is a tough town). But the future is on the way. You can see it.


The gentle and gentle sprout of hopefulness was watered by some very big global names, such as as Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Dato’ J. Jegathesan of Malaysia. Most of us in Memphis haven’t heard of him, which is because isn’t from around here and isn’t afraid of the things we’ve been taught to worry about. He—like most of your youth—is interested in what should come next and how we lend our lives to making it so.


The whole gathering idea of Dr. Sunny Anand, the globally renowed intensivist at LeBonheur. He spends most of his time seizing the next few days of life from the jaws of young tragedy, one moment and one life at a time. Thank God. But he is a citizen of the future, focusing hope and imagination on those who we will depend on soon—and finding a way to gather them together to help us all find our way. Those coming together bring their faith, not just of different traditions, but also different futures. I’m glad my Jesus faith is there, but also that of others illuminated by other lights.


It is a bit audacious to think that my generation of grown-ups has much to teach the rising one. We’ve spent most of our time fiddling with new gadgets while a few of us invented some great music. But we pretty much failed to turn the course of things that matter; looking around the world today looks old, scared, dumb and mean, just with iphones. . But few of us can still rock, including the Kings of the Delta led by Greg Lacky of Arkansas (It takes some guts to call yourselves kings of the delta in Memphis!) So maybe we can at least talk with the rising ones.

And maybe together, teach other the things that make for peace and hope.

It’s not done! (the future or the conference about it) It rolls on Sunday morning at 9am at Cannon Center in downtown Memphis through about 4pm. Check out the website at http://www.unityandhopememphis.org/

– Posted on the journey

About garygunderson

Vice President, Faith Health, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders and Religion and the Heath of the Public. Secretary, Stakeholder Health (Health Systems Learning Group).
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