You are all a lost generation.
In literature, the “Lost Generation” refers to the post-World War I mentality of people (more specifically, writers) who lost their sense of purpose and contentedness in the aftermath of the conflict’s horrors. Many of them seemed to travel aimlessly, some suffered from a degree of PTSD, and all of it is reflected in their work.
The above quote is attributed to Gertrude Stein, a close friend of Ernest Hemingway, and is used in the opening of The Sun Also Rises…Hemingway’s novel that is considered to be a seminal expression of the Lost Generation’s feelings.
It saddens me when I think of the despair felt by so many during this time. Sure, it led to the genesis of some great literary art, but at what cost? Famously, Hemingway never seemed to recover from these sentiments and took his own life in 1961.
As I spend time with my peers these days- and read their outpourings on social media- I cannot help but fear that a 2nd Lost Generation is fast forming.
Many current events are grim, just as they were a century ago. (In different ways, to be certain, but nevertheless unfortunate.) And I’d venture that a fair chunk of them are linked to the U.S. political climate that has reared its ugly head within the past three years. Never in my life have I seen neighbors so ideologically divided.
What has happened?
And never in my life have I witnessed friends, colleagues, and assorted young people have so much disillusionment for their world. I see many of them take stands for causes they believe in- which is great- while at the same time numbing the pessimistic impulses with alcohol, drugs, and broken relationships.
Even in the arts, the subject matter has shifted. Where was once musical comedies and disco beats now sit topical dramas and tributes to those who experienced untimely deaths. You could argue that global trends (political and otherwise) will ebb and flow; assuming that’s true, I still never expected it to occur in my lifetime.
I feel like I’m dancing around a point here, but I somehow can’t manage to say it outright. I guess what I’m saying is that I lament this 2nd Lost Generation. So many of us have this untapped potential that is being weighed down, like Atlas. I can only pray that a new horizon comes about quickly enough to save the lives of those who weren’t born idealists to begin with.
It was too late for Ernest Hemingway.