Life, Death, and Decay: A Coda

     Old people think about such things far more frequently than young people…but now and then, a young person will think about them. It’s about mindset:

     The lecture hall had emptied, but Armand and Teresza remained in their seats. Armand had not moved since the closing bell, and Teresza was afraid to nudge him. She simply sat, his big hand between hers, and waited for him to return from his private space.
     They’d sat in complete silence for several minutes when he murmured, “I think I see.”
     “What, Armand?” She chafed his hand gently.
     “Where he’s going with this.” He looked straight ahead, toward the lectern but not at it, a true thousand-yard stare. “He’s been hinting at a unified theory of society, like they’re looking for in physics. I think I see what it is.”
     He doesn’t look happy about it.
     “There’s only two forces that really matter,” he said. “Life and death. Everything else is a sideshow. When we work to live, and to make more life, and to take pleasure in life and help others do the same, that’s healthy. That’s freedom. But the people of Earth weren’t free. They were surrounded by their States. By death. And the States never let up for a moment. So they couldn’t make more life, or take a lot of pleasure in it. They had to distract themselves from all the death hemming them in. All the bodies piled up around them.” He rose and turned to her at last, and she rose in response. Tears trickled down his face. “But our ancestors chose life. The Spoonerites made the Great Sacrifice and broke the circle, so our ancestors could get free.” He wiped at his tears and smiled, a peculiar compound of pity for those who had died in bondage and gratitude that he and she and their compatriots would not. “We are so lucky.

     That’s the mindset of a thoughtful young man who came to maturity in a free society. Our young people haven’t had that privilege. I think that explains a great deal about our present troubles.