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Times Square: Why The World Needs A Boomer’s Heart

May 4, 2010

I’ve been driven most of my life by this sense of urgency – to sing my song full throated; to change the world full-throttle — before it’s too late for the world or for me.

But it was almost too late for hundreds, if not thousands, of New Yorkers and tourists in the heart of this town last Saturday night.

How close a call was this? How close is your death, and my own, at every turn? Al Qaida claimed credit for the attempted catastrophe: How far away is “over there” when those who hate us the most from so far away come so close to destroying so many of us?

I’m scribbling this on the subway here on Monday night. I look up at these people around me. We are all so precious, and also in such jeopardy, like children playing on a beach after an offshore earthquake.

And you may think me hopelessly starry-eyed, but I tell you the world needs a boomer’s heart, and it needs it now. What I mean by this is that those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, and who were involved with trying to change things, we know something others who came before and after us do not. We had precious glimpses of what’s possible when people start living as if everyone wants more than anything else to give love and connect to something bigger than themselves. As if a world based on generosity of spirit is possible. We who were there know it’s possible because we tasted it! We may have allowed ourselves to be criticized or cynicized (if that’s a word) or ridiculed out of it, but deep in our guts the memory remains.

And because of this there are certain things we know.

We know in our kishkas that this poor earth is like a broken home that needs mending, and the only solutions are planet-wide solutions.

We know (and were reminded this past weekend) that, like it or not, unless everyone in this world is taken care of, none of us are safe.

And we know in our hearts that the jarring, shocking storms we see are not normal. And that the reports of the barbarians of melt at the arctic gates are all true.

And we know that, although some of us identify ourselves primarily as Americans, and call this nation “us”, the world has other plans. It’s barging in, knocking, banging down the door, and demanding attention.

And we know 9/11 was the beginning, not the end, of terror here. We’re fighting Over There to keep the terror over there, but it’s coming back, and we know it.

And there’s something else. Deep in our bones, frozen in memory cells we think we’ve lost, we know that there is no “them” and there’s no “there” either. There is only us, and we’re all here. There’s maybe a mere 6 degrees of separation between me and Rush Limbaugh; and maybe 9 between you and some cute kid over in Syria or Pakistan who just learned in school an hour ago that you and I are the devil. Oh yes – many still think in terms of “us” and “’them”. But we can’t afford to anymore, and the reason is simply because it’s self-fulfilling and self-destructive.

So I tell you my generation’s job is incomplete. We came here on a mission: To change the world for the better. To offer another way, the way preached by all the world’s great spiritual traditions.

What generation dared to dream bigger or better dreams than ours? And dared to live them for a while? Who were the young who refused to waste their youth? And who had better not waste the time that’s left? 

So we shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed of our inner 15 or 20 or 25 year old, because s/he may be called up for active duty once again. That young kid knows how to make noise and waves. Knows how to bring attention to a cause, and make people listen up whether they want to or not. The world needs your inner audacious troublemaker, and now. We don’t need moderate solutions, but searing solutions that scald their way down to the radical root. We need to take our forgotten, neglected and rejected hopes and ideals and let them infuse, inform and inspire us once again.

And about our age now – well, what about it? The world needs the wisdom we’ve accumulated over time. Indeed, it needs our age, our outrage, and our courage. Our kids and grandkids may know how to work their iPads better than we ever will, but we still have a thing or two to teach and show them.

The world needs a boomer’s heart, because who better knows how to change the world?

Am I the only unrepentant hippie around? I know I’m a dreamer – but I’m not the only one.

Wait a minute! I feel a song coming on…

9 Comments leave one →
  1. May 4, 2010 11:37 am

    Have very similar feelings. our time has come round again.

  2. May 4, 2010 9:29 pm

    Tell it like it is, brother, but the saddest part is that there are those among us with Boomer hearts who believed in John Lennon, but had Carole King already imprinted: “It’s too late baby, oh it’s too late.” From the 60s we moved into the 70s of human potential and being reminded by people like Werner Erhard that “Who you are matters and what you do makes a difference” and you, Charley Wininger, more power to you, still hold to that, while so many of us, yes, have been cycnicized, great word. Then again, they haven’t car bombed Richmond yet, how close to home does it have to get? I’m in NYC often enough, so that counts. Life is tenuous enough as it is, I could be riding my bicycle today and have a Christopher Reeve incident, or get some rare test result back, the number of ways we can suffer and die are endless, now we have to add one more, and you’re saying it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back? “Car bombs in Times friggin’ Square. Okay, that’s it, I’ve had enough, it’s time to change the world.”

    It truly does seem completely hopeless to me and renders me impotent, I’m sorry to say. I need somebody else to save the world for me, and just let me keep living in it. And as Hillel said, If not you, who? If not now, when? I believe he was speaking to YOU, Charley, so please do something about all the terror and violence and environmental havoc in this world-weary world.

  3. May 6, 2010 5:03 am

    Great post. As a member of the “younger” generation- there are a couple idealists around still! Yours truly included.

    I have to say though, you seem particularly affected by 9/11. Not that I wasn’t- my dad worked in the World Trade Center and I was very worried for him that day. Fortunately he was alright, but I think the image of bodies smashing against the sidewalk will stay with him for the rest of his life. As a student journalist, I was there the next day taking pictures and interviewing people downtown and in the parks. Makeshift memorials. Dust. I remember it all too well. I even got a shot of “ground zero” from on top of a neighboring building.

    I’m no conspiracy nut, but I will say there is significant scientific evidence to raise doubt on the official 9/11 report explanation of events. Now, most people consider anyone who would voice such a view “crazy” or whatever, but the reality is, it’s probably because we have been taught to react this way.

    How can you react to a situation where thousands of people died, and perhaps due to a lie (or set of lies)? The government has done this before: look at most wars we’ve engaged in. How many of them had precipitating incidents that were fabricated or manipulated? Nearly 100%?

    I’m not well versed on 9/11 alternative theories, however I’m sure a quick google search will raise tons of credible organizations with thousands of scholars, scientists, and professionals calling for independent review.

    And to me, it calls into question the whole government, news, and educational system of this country. Young people just accept they’re being lied to now a days. From DARE to our history books, everything is manipulated. If only a truth existed.

  4. May 7, 2010 5:47 am

    Your recent “Boomer Heart” blog post touched me deeply and I wanted to make a comment , but I find myself switching between two parts of myself. One part was right with you but another (wiser or cynical?) part kept saying “no amount of sixties juice is worth anything without focused action toward a goal of creating a more sane, conscious world” AND more importantly “until and unless the average consciousness of the world (see Ken Wilber) gets beyond tribal, nothing ain’t ever gonna change”. I feel both, with the latter winning out most days.

    • May 7, 2010 3:38 pm

      But how does that consciousness get changed? What about that Margeret Meade quote about a small group of determined people making things change as being the only way things have ever changed? For us to sit pretty clucking our tongues at the world’s tribalism (which I certainly do at times) is a luxury we can’t afford.

  5. Moshe Rothenberg permalink
    May 7, 2010 7:52 am

    I don’t think we are the devil, you and I, whatsoever, by being US citizens or anything else, but those kids over there in Pakistan who are learning that have no class perspective and so identify us with our government, who is the devil in their lives (and so many others). People I know are over there teaching about class struggle,
    so that one day, one by one by one, kids will no longer see US citizens as the enemy but our true friends and allies.

  6. May 7, 2010 6:14 pm


    I love you. You make me proud. You have combined all your best qualities and talents into your on-going project. Bravo.

    • May 7, 2010 10:37 pm

      But Joe, I would have expected this post to engender a “oh Charley you’re so naive” kind of response from you.

      I’m confused, but grateful for your comments.

  7. August 9, 2013 8:21 am

    There is certainly a lot to learn about this topic.

    I like all the points you’ve made.

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