How encouraging it has been to come into contact with many of the rising generation in these days of utter confusion. I have been impressed with your ability to think for yourselves and to question many of the assumptions some of my age would try to impose on you.

Those of you I have met have demonstrated understanding and compassion in the midst of so much hostility and outright assaults on others.

Once when stepping down off risers after a choral rehearsal, my foot landed on top of a young man’s foot. It had to hurt. I apologized profusely, begging for understanding of an old man’s inability to come down risers, but his response was amazing: “Don’t worry,” he said, “I hope to reach your age myself.” What wisdom from a high school student!

You are having to make your way through the most irrational times this 80-year-old has ever witnessed.

Enormous pressures are on you to conform to ideologies that would rank the various human expressions into superior/inferior categories, going so far as to justify bullying and harm enacted on those deemed less because of their differences. There are so many issues dividing the human community today: white/people of color; gay/straight; temporarily abled bodied/disabled; redneck/sophisticated, and many more.

I would plead with you to consider the real causes that separate community: fear, fragility and feebleness.

The causes began when we were born and the issue of survival was uppermost, realizing how dependent we were upon others to make it. That anxiety is a part of our being, and caving into it will result in actions against those we fear threaten our place/survival in society.

Certain political operatives have been very clever in harnessing our basic survival instinct, projecting its anxiety onto those who are different. And statistical analysis reveals that they have succeeded with roughly a third of our country’s populace.

Life is a wondrous array of beautiful variety, and my prompting to plead with you is to invite careful examination of the ideologies that are being slung at you.

Take time to see one another as if you were in the other, what it must be like to walk in the other’s sandals, how it must feel like to be the brunt of brutality because of some supposed difference. Take time to reflect on what really counts in life. Do possessions and power, grasping everything we can, beating others down in the process really grant us happiness in life? One of my wealthy close friends lived that way, and his dying words were: “I have so many regrets.”

Your generation has already demonstrated enlarged visioning, an outlook that sees beyond mere outward appearances to greater possibilities that lie within human striving. The Cosmos is One with each and everyone of us, and as mere specks in the grand scheme of things, perhaps, being more aware of what we call “unworthy” needs reconsideration. Forge ahead, young friends, in your search for what really matters.

James Norton


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