~a column by Colleen O’Brien

The January National Geographic has arrived and I am happy about this, as usual. When I see it in the mailbox, I get a tiny frisson of anticipation — these folks not only know how to travel the world, they know how to intrigue us with their tales and share photos with us that knock our socks off. It’s my favorite magazine.

This edition, in particular, is right up my increasingly jaded Pollyanna alley: most of the issue revolves around New Year’s prophecies that are good, positive, helpful, hopeful and fun; no doom and gloom. Unlike the pervasively peevish Faux pundits and politicians, Nat Geo thinks the world will survive the future, starting with the immediate — 2015 and the next 10 to 50 years —

Driverless, electric cars! Yay! Soon, we won’t have to own cars, we will just dial ’em up, they’ll pick us up, deposit us wherever it is we need to be, return to bring us home. No accidents. No road rage. No upkeep, insurance, gas lines, falling asleep at the wheel. It will be a kind of public transportation akin to trains, only without having to wait at the station. Think of all the books you can read, the phone calls and texts you can make and answer, the scenery you can pay attention to, the naps you can take.

Divorce will decrease because fewer folks will marry; they will live apart — far apart because of jobs they love — and visit now and then. What movie actress was it who said this….? Katherine Hepburn? “Let’s live next door and visit now and then,” she said. Although we never quite got there, there were times in our marriage when Jim and I talked about this arrangement. I don’t know what one does about the kids if it’s different cities, but . . . not my worry. And really, kids love us but I think they like us best when we’re not paying attention and they’re playing outside.

The combustion engine will live only in museums. Energy will come totally from “clean, renewable, carbon-free” sources — air, water, geothermal. Nat Geo says that “safe, secure, sustainable” sources are already within our grasp. I suppose this means that the corporate graspers (oil, coal, gas, pretend rubber, etc. industries) will be gasping for something, some way to charge us for the sun and the wind. I’m sure they’ll figure it out, seeing as how many of them figured out how to finagle politicians into making laws regarding how to charge us for airwaves. But, at least we might be pollution-free.

Within 10 to 20 years, our personal genomes will be logged, categorized and fixed when they need fixing. This sounds like the beginning of the end of the end of life . . . no more death by sickness, disease, old age. We’ll have to worry only about murder. Also, I suppose, although Nat Geo didn’t mention it, purely personal decisions regarding contraception, abortion and end-of-life timeliness will be . . . purely personal.

If one takes only these four predictions to their logical ends, it means we won’t need any more politicos at all. No representatives to make laws covering driving, divorce, disease, dalliance or death . . . free at last, we shall be free at last.

Thank you again, National Geographic. Your eruditeness, your philosophical yet scientific lookout, your eye for catching the light of the photo that will tell the story. . .we owe you the debt of gratitude into the ages. We owe you the dedication of Emily Dickinson, prior to you, our favorite hopeful:

Hope is the thing with feathers —

That perches in the soul —

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops — at all —

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