Immediately I thought: “Generation? That’s a meaningful concept to me, positioned as I am in the weird plot between Generations X, Y, and the Millennials.” In truth, I have many thoughts on the subject, and I know I will mouth off on it one of these days, but soooo many people have already done so. (Here’s one article that comes instantly to mind. This one is pretty good, too.) In fact, though I am guilty of placing way too much weight on my position within “the generations,” I think it is seemingly so significant in large part due to how played-up it already is in our culture: the idea that “my generation” is a badge of identity, a marker of time and place that binds you to some people while setting you off from others. So yeah, I buy in, but I don’t think it’s a particularly original topic.
Secondarily I thought: “But wait, what do they mean by ‘generation’? The word has many seemingly-disparate definitions.” I went to dictionary.com to find out just how many. As far as distinct, modern, general definitions go, it listed FOURTEEN. Skimming the list, it was easy to see the evolution of meanings, stemming from the concept of creation, the word “generate.” I love the word “generate,” because it ties directly into that mother-of-many-words root morpheme, “gen-“: meaning something like “origin,” and being the basis of words such as “genus,” “general,” “genre,” “gender,” and so many more. These words have to do with what makes a thing whole, complete, and distinct from other things. If we can zoom out a little bit to focus again on the lexeme “generate” that serves as a foundation to our prompt of the day, I would call your attention to the “action-y” aspect of the word: while “gen” has much to do with categorical properties (what is), “generate” contains the hope for breaking out of those bonds (what will be). To generate is to create something new, and while what is “new” is rarely radically different from its predecessors (leading, as far as human procreation is concerned, to the phrase “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” among many similar idioms), the fact remains that “generate” blurs the line between where we come from and where we’re going. Central to answering the questions, “Who am I? Why am I here?” are the questions, “Where (and when, and whence) do I come from? How much does that predetermine my choices and their impact?” No wonder, then, that we are so preoccupied with the concept of “generation.”