I am working on “The Second Crucible” and have spent a good bit of time wrestling with the idea of a “crucible.” Such a struggle might seem odd given that I am including the word “crucible” in the working title of the book. The problem is that we are, as individuals, keenly aware of the crucible experiences that enter into our private lives. It is much more difficult to see how the crucible experiences of our generation influence the course of our lives.
For example, I remember a few years back when Jude and I had five kids aged ten and under and two of those children were living with profound neurological disabilities. We lived “off the grid” on solar and wind power on a farm that required relentless care and I had also plunged myself into building a career as a geriatrician. Pressure? Oh, yes there was pressure. Those years formed a personal crucible for us.
I was a man with an M.D., a farm and a family but I was also a “Boomer” and as such I was subject the changes that my generation was making to my culture and my society. This interplay is difficult to see because we are so accustomed to viewing our lives solely on an intensely personal level. We are the stars of our own personal “lifetime” movie.
At the time, I had little or no understanding that my personal crucible was actually contained within and wholly subject to vastly larger generational forces. It was during the years of my early adulthood that the Post War generation, my generation, was completing its expansion and reinforcement of adulthood. Those were the years when the Cult of Adulthood came, fully, to power.
What we forget, and forget at our peril, is that we are all being swept along by historical, demographic and generational forces. The rarely acknowledged irony is that, even though these trends are entirely impersonal and lie well outside of our control, they give form and substance to our daily lives.
The Second Crucible aims to connect the public and private, to bridge the individual and the generational. The metaphor that is most apt is, I think, that of the fish who learns how to see and understand and appreciate, the vast ocean that surrounds him. It is better to have an understanding of the forces that give color and form to our lives.
It is better to know because we still have a long way to run.