Today is Oliver’s birthday. Not the anniversary of Oliver’s birthday, but his actual one. Did you feel that planetary wobble? That was our boy. He was supposed to show up more than a week ago, but he was disinclined, and had to be evicted. Baby Oliver, my great-nephew, is the first new thing in our family in thirty-one years, and is a production of the last new thing.

I don’t really blame him for holding back. It’s a scary world out there. Dave thinks I am unreasonably optimistic, but he’s wrong. I am constitutionally wired to veer towards cheer, but I’m not really optimistic at all. I think we’re going down, but I also think, in the context of each of our little lives, that we must continue to do our best, and that means we need to pay attention. As a species, we’re still a teenager, and we’re trashing the place because we are lacking an adult perspective and we don’t think we’ll ever die, but the ugly truth is not all teenagers make it to adulthood. We might party down and wreck the car and crash and burn and take some stuff down with us, but after the teddy bears rot off the milepost marker, no one will remember us.

Now that Oliver’s here, I think it would be a swell time for all of us to try a little harder. Start anywhere. Start small.

Are you a sad, wounded, pea-hearted troll who slithers onto the internet at night to say nasty things to people, and you can’t bring yourself to just say nothing at all? Maybe you could work on your spelling.

Are you a more responsible soul, standing in line at the store to pay for a shirt, a bottle of water, and a snack-pack? Pay attention, instead. You’ve got time; the old bat up front hasn’t even started excavating her purse for her checkbook yet. How old was the person who stitched your shirt, and what did she get paid? Maybe it’s cheap for you because somebody else is paying. And let’s take a look at that snack. All those adorable little plastic compartments so you don’t have to risk your crackers rubbing elbows with your cheese-like product! The plastic is a deathless unit of petroleum that contributes to global warming on the front end and spins forever in the ocean destroying sea life on the back end. The cheese-like product is manufactured using more petroleum and some minor contribution from cows that have been zipped up with antibiotics that are being outwitted by virulent bacteria right now, to our eventual regret. Maybe you could have an apple. Maybe you could grow an apple.

About that water. Tremendous news, maybe you’ve heard? We get water pumped right into our houses now. Not that long ago that would have been an unthinkable luxury. It’s clean, too, because we got together and bought ourselves some protection with our tax money. You could pick up this uninspected fluid in the handy petroleum package so that someone gets some jingle in his pocket for the privilege of privatizing something that should be owned by all of us, or you could just turn on the tap for practically nothing.

Are you someone who is getting a whole lot of money and a big microphone that broadcasts to the whole world and all you can do is make fun of the First Lady’s ass and whine that she’s trying to take away your Twinkies? Seriously, dude? Maybe you can think of something more constructive to do.

Or maybe you’re in a position of actual power and you’re devoting your days to making sure that the people who have all the money get to keep it and add to it. Is this your legacy to the world? Give it a little more thought and do the right thing. Do one right thing. Extra credit if you can do it without getting your penis in the news, but we’ll let that slide for now.

Start anywhere. Start small.

Or are you really wicked wealthy? So wealthy that you could give away 95% of it and still be wicked wealthy? Maybe you could let a little of it go, or maybe you could send a little down the line to the people who got all that wealth stacked up for you. Because, honey, you didn’t earn it. Know how I know? It’s not possible to earn that much money. You amassed it, honey, and that’s about the most shine we can put on it. Maybe you could see that all those people who contributed to your fat bottom line could get more of a share. Maybe you could decline to do business in countries that do not care for their workers or the environment. Or maybe you could save a watershed a week, or cure malaria. Does that whole line of thinking make you pucker? Okay. Maybe you could merely call off Twinkie-boy with the microphone and tell him to quit making fun of the First Lady’s ass just to raise the rabble that keeps electing the people who are allowing you to amass more money. Maybe you could quit buying those politicians who are raising all those armies for you so you can keep all those resources under your control and continue to trash the planet while the rest of us try to get some of it cleaned up, and maybe you could quit paying those people to come up with ideas like manufacturing all this fake uproar you don’t even believe in about gay people so the ignorant keep coming to the polls and voting in your minions so you can keep all of your money and get even more. No? Baby steps, then. Maybe you could pay some damn taxes. Start small. Start anywhere. Start.

Because it’s Oliver’s birthday, and it’s time we grew up.