“After you’re dead and buried and floating around whatever place we go to, what’s going to be your best memory of earth? What one moment for you defines what it’s like to be alive on this planet. What’s your takeaway?”
“Fake yuppie experiences that you had to spend money on, like white water rafting or elephant rides in Thailand don’t count. I want to hear some small moment from your life that proves you’re really alive.”
~ Douglas Coupland, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture
What an evocative and passionate question, yes?
A truly genuine reply requires something other than a quick spouting of mindless, Stepford-esque responses drawn from the cultural pre-fab.
The “most-alive moments” question also immediately brings to my mind what the late John O’Donohue and the poet David Whyte call “the fierce edges of life.”
Very Scorpio-Pluto-8th House, in the symbolic-mythic language of astrology .
And very Generation-X … and, interestingly, very ‘early Millennial‘, too – a few of whom have told me they feel much the same way about being “lumped into” the Millennial batch. There are quite a few astro-affinities between these groups, as it turns out.
But really, most people (to lesser or greater degree), regardless of the birth year, don’t want to be stuck into tiny, ill-fitting boxes designed for the convenience of Ivory Tower researchers or big-corpa’s neuromarketing teams.
Those little boxes can be like coffins, albeit less obvious ones in which one is buried alive and kept just-barely living, though cleverly anesthetized (and some might say gaslighted) into thinking they’re living it up.
(Enter epic, non-negotiable, out-of-nowhere life-quakes, and the clever smoke-and-mirror facade shatters ruthlessly, but that’s another article.)
Canadian Artist and Writer, Douglas Coupland, wrote Generation X: Tales for An Accelerated Culture in 1991, to give voice to the frustrations he was feeling, and the insights he had, about people in his age-group being lumped in at the tail-end of the Baby Boomer demographic group.
And in quintessential Gen-X form, Coupland didn’t want anything to do with being labeled “the voice of the generation(X)” or other sorts of shiny, foil-wrappered carrots that were dangled in front of him.
Generation-X, as a group, includes those born 1961 to 1977 or 1981, depending on who’s talking.
The faux 1964 or 1965 start dates are attributed to a project mapping fertility cycles, and a Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies report whose authors wanted to make neat-and-tidy 20-year spans for Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millennials.
But some tidy boxes just don’t fit, and rebelling against being shoe-horned into a misfit tiny perceptual-coffin is more than understandable.
Coupland’s book, and a few other early Gen-X cultural rebels, blew the lid off their box, though even now the “neat and tidy” 20-year-batches definition sticks.
Demographers William Strauss and Neil Howe agreed, saying, “a majority of those born between 1961–1964 … are culturally distinct from Boomers in terms of shared historical experiences,” and that the neat-and-tidy pre-fab categories failed “to take into consideration the shared history and cultural identity of the individuals.”
If we’re talking about shared history and cultural identity — and the former is what shapes us, at least in fair part — astrological language and cycles might offer a more nuanced tool, alongside formative cultural and historical influences.
If you’re a Generation-Xer born with Chiron in Pisces, you/we have been in Chiron Return mode — one of the significant life milestones that all experience (more on Life Milestone times here).
So it’s as good a time as any to visit culture-box-dissolving perspectives like Coupland’s, Strauss and Howe’s, Jeff Gordinier (X Saves the World), and others.
Including our own lens, through our own experiences and formative influences that have led us to what and who and who we are now, regardless of non-nuanced, overly homogenizing, 20-year-batch bureaucratic-demographic boxes.
Among the insights I have really resonated with, based on my own experience as part of the mid-60s-born Gen-X group, is Jem Neal’s “The Magi of Uranus-Pluto,” who shares a bit about those formative influences (and in other articles, about the Ur-Plu in Leo and Ur-Plu in Libra, etc. groups).
Back to Coupland’s question:
What small moments, or larger ones, not purchased ‘experiences’, exemplify feeling alive?
What fierce edges of life have called us more present (when they were happening) and thus into greater aliveness?
Questions to jot down, sit with, let gestate, and journal on or explore in conversation with a good friend or two with whom we have some actual, deeper relationship.
Big Love (and Fierce Edges),
Image Credit Link: Michael Allan Leonard’s site here.