In many ways, I’m an extremely predictable person. I always get the same kind of ice cream. Each restaurant has a single item I pick every time I’m there. I wear T-shirts that I’ve had since middle school. There are a couple thoughts and activities that consistently make me happy, a few that always calm me down, and some that stress me out no matter how often they cross my path. Like most people, I’ve changed a great deal over the years. But with the exception of a handful of unexpectedly transformative life events, my internal changes have felt slow, purposeful, and comprehensible. I don’t like uncertainty, and I work as hard as I can to reduce it to a manageable level. But in areas where the limits of my knowledge and ability to study fall short, I feel frustrated, lost, and afraid. Maybe that’s why the future, which is so frequently a source of inspiration and anticipation for me, has also always filled me with a vague gnawing undercurrent of fear that won’t go away.
I’ve heard that hope is something of an antidote to fear. For me, it at least mitigates some of the symptoms. In light of the stormy times that seem (to me) to be looming on the near horizon, I thought it would be good medicine to write about some of the things I’m most hoping for by the time I turn 50.
- Celebrating my 23rd wedding anniversary with Martha. I hope we can enjoy a happy breakfast, get to spend some quality time outdoors, and still love watching the sun go down together. I hope we’re still making new memories faster than the old ones fade away.
- Hanging out with my people. I hope Mom & Dad McClurg, and Mom & Dad Harrouff will be pleasantly settled into being Grandparents McClurg & Harrouff. I hope that Jedidiah, Anna, Moriah, Micah, Jake, Jemmie, Ben, and Kate are still pursuing their passion. I hope that we all still love just spending an afternoon with each other.
- Watching my own kids find their feet and voice as adults. I hope each one of them deeply wants to leave the world better than they found it. I hope they’re working at that with a will, and are finding joy in that work.
- Serving God by helping others in work and down time. I hope I still can help out at my church, but I’m especially hopeful that I’ll have improved the service-to-selfishness ratio in my job and recreation. I’m definitely not close to being there yet, but by the time I’m 50, I hope my actions have grown to speak the love of God to my friends & coworkers in a way that Sunday service can’t.
- Positive structural changes with the collapse of the two-party system. I hope that the current dissatisfaction with the two major U.S. political parties continues to grow and their monopoly on our government offices is broken. I hope new parties with orthogonal goals fill the void, and the government is forced to undergo the structural changes it needs to unite a country without homogenizing it.
- Widespread reform in “fundamentalist” Christian circles. I hope that the blatant hypocrisy, hate-mongering, and short sightedness displayed by some formerly well-respected Christian groups will cause a mass exodus from the stagnant, insular social communities that have developed around some churches. I am looking forward to the day when fundamentalist Christians point their ire in the right direction, upturn the structures of hate and fear, and pour out God’s love with all the energy of a megaphone preacher.
- Social change through decentralized media. I hope that the Internet becomes the primary source of news for most people in this country. More than that, I hope that Internet news aggregators and search engines continue to become more in tune with with people’s long-term desires. We’ve gone from terrible flashing online ads to tailored search suggestions that actually help us find what we’re looking for. By the time I’m 50, I hope we’ve moved from an Internet economy based on “time spent online” to “life satisfaction from online time.” With that, the news that gets the most hits is going to be the news that helps us live better — not news that sensationalizes things or divides us.
- Better technology and more resilient economies. I hope that driving to work is no longer a risky behavior. I hope that people don’t have to wait for heart transplants or need dialysis machines to stay alive. I hope we can look back and feel good about our progress toward taking care of our planet. I hope I get to use technologies I never could have dreamed of. I hope that all the global technological changes makes our economies more resilient to change. I hope that powerful people start spending less time manipulating financial markets, and more time working toward long term human goals.
- Coming closer together. I hope an awareness with what is going on in other places continues to grow. I hope people from different cultures continue to talk to each other, and hash out their differences. I hope that the increasing interdependencies among different countries and companies and people help us see past the things that don’t matter. I hope the world is better prepared to interact peacefully without agreeing.
- Cultural reform and improved human rights. The history of ethics isn’t something I pretend to know a lot about, but it seems like the persistent work of people trying to do good over the centuries has helped us “grow up” a little as a species. War and slavery aren’t everyday norms for everyone. Some marginalized communities have more power than they ever have before. We’ve a long way to go, to be sure, but I hope I can look back on some global ethical progress by the time I’m 50.