We live in a world where everything is possible. But at the same time, we live in a world where everything has been done before.
We are the lost generation. A hundred years after Hemingway introduced the term in his monumental novel, The Sun Also Rises, there is indeed a new lost generation.
Everywhere I look, I see young, restless faces; wandering eyes on the lookout for yet another reason to survive the day that is ahead of them. All across the cities I wander, I stumble upon motivational quotes, portrayed in every thinkable way.
“Eventually the road must lead to the whole world.” My personal favourite quote, written by a survivor of the Beat generation, Jack Kerouac.
Whilst reading the newspapers, turning on the TV or opening some sort of social media platform, immediately some click-bait article about murder, terror, attack, panic or fear pops up. It doesn’t matter where I go, look, stand, stop or stare: All around me, I see lost people, trying to conquer this life that has given them nothing.
My only release from this nothingness? I am not alone. I am not alone, searching for some kind of spiritual way out of this materialistic maze filled with questions, but devoid of answers. Hopelessly clutching on to the few moments of careless joy, just to not get sucked up in the void that is the responsibilities of life. The life I once only saw as a joke, a distant enemy, now standing on my doorstep, knocking hard.
All the quotes, prose and poetry twenty-somethings write and read every day come from this inner fear of failing life; it’s a scream to the world for approval of the life they lead. This constant pressure is reflected in the Facebook pages they so hopelessly want to keep updated and interesting. When I see these individuals I feel compassion. I recognize the lonely, for I recognize myself.
I experience the same feeling when I – once more – pick up a book written by Fitzgerald. A book about the depressed capitalist and the drunk socialist wandering the same streets, with equally lost souls. The same feeling I get when I read yet another book written by Hemingway, and am confronted with his stories about stoic human heroes, poisoned and gracefully written off by faith. They too feel lost and give in to the fact that they are the lost generation. You can read in between the lines, an underlying message of resignation towards modern life and its challenges. A feeling of a big world becoming more complex by the day. A feeling of desolation. A feeling of abandonment.
We may not have grown up with a World War, but are we that different? We are free, now more than ever, yet so unsatisfied about everything and bound to materialism. The atrocities in this world – which we are confronted with daily – shatter our utopian view on humanity. There are no roots for our own belief in humanity. Our humanity makes us free, but this freedom has no meaning.
Our homeland doesn’t feel like our home, but we can’t seem to find it elsewhere. In this postmodern world, where giving meaning to life is based on individual definition, we break under the fear and uncertainty of the responsibility that our future brings along with it.
The Hemingways, Fitzgeralds and Kerouacs conquered this uncertainty and uselessness. They didn’t try to form the desperate and chaotic future ahead. They stopped looking back to the painful past that should have provided them with answers. All that was left was the now and they had to make do with that. If they had to form the modern world, they had to start with themselves. They turned inwards and created rich personalities and identities. They started living for experiences that helped shape them. They travelled to unknown countries, drank foreign wine, and swam in strange oceans. These experiences helped develop them into the unique beings they were. Innovators of the new world.
Now, a hundred years later, it is up to us. We have to keep our heads up, in the same way they did, if we do not want to exist without peace and a sense of resolution. We have to discover ourselves, in order to shape the world around us. This existence is not just walking the path that seems the most comfortable. We have to embrace the excitement and fear that goes hand in hand with the discovery of ourselves and this life.
It is a way to survive in this mad world. We have to rebuild this world we live in from within ourselves. And from that point forward we can create a realistic world, so that one day, we will rise and shine once more, and light up the dark souls of our generation.
So get up. Disconnect yourself from this virtual life you have been living. Swear off the security that is a given. Live every single day as if it is your last. Go out, explore and develop. Do this and you shall define yourself. You shall conquer your own life and live it to fullest. It will be filled with memories and become a piece of art. Make sure people will one day realize you have cracked the code to life. Fight for what you believe in and at the end of it all, be proud. Be proud of who you have become, only then you shall find the peace you so longingly seek. Make your existence matter. Rise my fellow lost ones, and find yourselves.
Let your journey start today and you will see, sooner or later, that it will all be worth it.