27 May 2018

Monarchs (Butterflies, that is) and Millennials

I went on a business trip with my wife Friday. She calls them field trips. She teaches 2nd grade and Wednesday her 7 and 8 year olds reached the end of their unit on butterflies by releasing some they had watched transform from caterpillars into butterflies. Friday they went to the IMAX to watch a movie about monarchs.

It's cliche to express wonder at the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly but the wonder is deserved. If you saw the two creatures without any knowledge that they were related, you likely wouldn't even put them in the same category, much less realize they were two stages of the same life. There's more, though.

Every fourth generation is a super butterfly. For three generations the butterfly's life expectancy is about two to six weeks. This fourth generation, though, lives for six to eight moths. It's also bigger and able to fly from Canada into the heart of Mexico, thousands of miles. The transformation from caterpillar to butterfly is genetic code triggered each generation; the transformation from regular to super butterfly is genetic code only triggered every fourth generation.

Which made me wonder whether something similar is going on in our community.

If we define a generation as 25 years, four generations back takes us to those born about 1900. These people fought in World War 1 and then were the leaders during World War 2. Their inventions, speculations, investments and desires fueled the roaring 20s, tipped into the Great Depression, and then a hot war with fascists and then a cold war with communists. When they were born in 1900, the two most common jobs were farmer and household servants (families with fewer than 3 servants were considered lower-middle class); by the time they died in the 1960s through 1990s, men had walked on the moon, the internet was linking people across the world, and the discovery of DNA had evolved into genetic engineering.

The kids at Parkland so impressed me. Millennials and younger are aware, conscientious, and the best educated generation in history. They are informed by thousands of stories and have access to millions of lives through a media that includes TV, radio, podcasts, video, social media and every other permutation of the internet.

It is, of course, a whimsical idea, but what if those kids born about 2000 - who are 4 generations removed from the generation born about 1900 - are a super generation who will carry us farther than the generations before?

No comments: