Monday, September 3, 2012

The Flower Child Elders

There are moments of realization when one feels that time has slipped by on silent feet drawing a curtain in its wake; a veil that separates Then from Now.The passing of time that seemed to flow seamlessly along the paths of our lives becomes an entity in itself...time invisible yet substantive, it is a force that calls attention to the raw fact that the world around us changes in ways we may never have predicted. And along with those changes the perception and interpretation of reality is also evolved, adapted and shaped.This process is slow and subtle we may not catch on until one day an event or topic of conversation draws us to a situation where we must decide if our own perceptions have failed to evolve with the rest of the world.

Suddenly we find ourselves perched cautiously at the precipice of the dreaded Generation Gap. Even that phrase is outmoded, but a hangover from my past. I'm sure there are other, more polite and politically correct terms for the phenomenon just as I am sure there are some that are less flattering. In any case regardless of what you call it there is an awkward moment when you find yourself clutching a belief with one hand while the other reaches out testing the feel of a different perspective. The fabric may seem familiar but the texture is not, something is amiss and unfamiliar. Then you search your heart and mind for the proper formula that will allow a transmutation of beliefs and values one that will create a blend of what we knew and what we have learned.

Or we could, if we choose, dismiss the unfamiliar, refusing to integrate the fruits of time and human experience desperately clinging to The Way It Always Has Been Back In My Day.

In other words, we can perpetuate the timeless classic stereotype of stubborn and cranky old people. (some things don't change!) To realize, and admit, that upon examination this new fabric has it's merits does not mean we must sacrifice out dearly held beliefs, unless of course, common sense and evidence tells us otherwise. Probably one of the most significant bits of wisdom that can develop with age is that many things can be true at once. In other words the world is a lot more grey than black and white.

If older folks long for a so called simpler time, it's not that the time itself was more simple or the problems less complex, it's that our place within the context was more easily navigated. We played by, or rebelled against, the rules of the time. We did this by using the skills and strategies we learned, within the context of the time. It wasn't always easy, but it was familiar. Now as we have gone from board games, to Pong, to myriad online role playing games the get out of jail free card isn't much help. But the lessons we learned about sharing, taking turns, trading properties (and maybe even stashing some bills under the board like my brother used to do) can translate to problem solving that can be used in other applications.

In this time of what the media loves to label a youth driven culture of activism, there may be moments where we feel out of step, but we need not fall behind. There are enduring characteristics and similarities between now and the 60's and any other era of social unrest and reform. Ideas and strategies that have proven to be universally effective have endured and others have fallen by the wayside...things change and things remain the same, both things are true at once. If we as elders can apply our understanding of that timeless truth, if we remain loyal to the values that endure while we integrate the unfamiliar, we will gracefully navigate the so called generation gap. Our footprints trace the journey from past to present and future. The path of the flower child didn't begin in the 1960's, nor will it end in the 21st century. The Flower Child is an archetype, the Young at Heart who will become elders, but never grow old.

Make Love, Not War,