Blessings of the Generation Gap

Lucinda’s Birthday with Arielle

“We are what they grow beyond.” ~ Yoda in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

“The young man pities his elder, fearing the day he, too, will join their ranks. The elderly man pities the younger generation, well-knowing the trials and tribulations that lie ahead of them.” ~ Lydia I Fisher

“America isn’t breaking apart at the seams. The American dream isn’t dying. Our new racial and ethnic complexion hasn’t triggered massive outbreaks of intolerance. Our generations aren’t at each other’s throats. They’re living more interdependently than at any time in recent memory, because that turns out to be a good coping strategy in hard times. Our nation faces huge challenges, no doubt. So do the rest of the world’s aging economic powers. If you had to pick a nation with the right stuff to ride out the coming demographic storm, you’d be crazy not to choose America, warts and all.” ~ Pew Research Center, The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown.

At the beginning of each new semester, I think anew about my students and what I will learn from them. Maybe it’s because I’m dedicated to life long learning that made me choose teaching as part of my career. My life is so much richer for the exchange of ideas that challenge my old ways of thinking and being and I’m grateful to meet new students each semester.

There are times when I feel angry and distressed when older people shake their heads and condemn the younger generations, or when the younger generations dismisses the contributions of those who came before them. The human race would never evolve if we had to begin all over again when a new generation emerges into the dominant positions as creators, leaders, inventors, and innovators. One generation must learn from the last and build on what they have contributed so that improvements can be made.

As I was preparing for my busy semester, I got to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi, for a second time. The first time I saw it, one quote stuck with me. It’s the one above by Yoda, “We are what they grow beyond.” I loved that statement. However, the second time through, I heard the second part of that quote, “and that is the pain (or maybe it was sorrow) we bear.” And I thought, “Wait what?” I don’t bear any burden if my students take something they’ve learned from me and use it to grow beyond my understanding or talents. That’s the joy and reward of teaching.

I’m not saying anything new when I state that we are in a time of great change and we have to rely upon one another even more than before, so when I found the above quote by the Pew Research Center, I rejoiced. I don’t want to tell my students or any of the younger generations that I’m smarter than they are. I want to learn from them and work with them to create a much more equitable, sustainable world in which to live. And I want to appreciate the many contributions of the generations that have gone before as well. Change is always disruptive, but in my mind, that’s a good thing. I’d get bored if my life was the same day after day with no hope for something new and exciting to look forward to. When the forces of change arrive, we get a chance to keep what works and throw out what no longer serves us. It’s a long process sometimes, but well worth the work.

I’m off to auditions for the play I’m directing, Measure for Measure and excited to hear what my students have to teach me about this play written so many centuries ago. It’s amazing that the works of Shakespeare contain so many ideas that apply to events today and give us clues about how to face our challenges.

Have a lovely weekend.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting on my posts. I appreciate reading your take on what I’ve written.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

I Refuse to be Pessimistic

“If all you do is spend time focusing on what the problem is, you leave no room open for the solution.” –Mastin Kipp

“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation – either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”– Martin Luther King Jr.

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.” –Jane Goodall

Why do we do it? Why do we always go to the cynical, pessimistic place first? Some unexpected challenge happens, and we go immediately into a panic. I do it too.

Something happened this week that made me see that I do that. I didn’t like it and I declared: “I refuse to be pessimistic!” All of a sudden I’d had it up to here (hand placed above my head) with cynicism and being pessimistic about life.

It happened at my book club group. We got to talking about the younger generation. (We’re a group of Baby Boomers.) One of the women said that she didn’t understand the younger generation and the discussion turned, as it always does with the older generation, to concern about whether or not the future was in good hands.

This kind of discussion gets my ire up. I guess it’s because I’ve been a teacher in one form and another for thirty-five years. I’ve taught high school and college classes for fifteen years, and every year, I’m excited by how bright and thoughtful my students are. So, I spoke up and said that I have faith in the younger generation and then I declared, “I refuse to be pessimistic about the young people today! I refuse to be pessimistic about anything!” This caused the other women to pause.

Later, I thought about it and I’ve decided that a better way to say it is, “I’m determined to be positive.”

My generation went through a lot of horrible stuff. We got shell shocked, so letting go of cynicism might be hard. We suffered through assassinations, multiple wars, a loss of innocence about government, and the turmoil around the Civil Rights of humans in this country. Many of those struggles go on today. But, our children have gone through some rough times too. That’s why we need to give them a break.

Let’s face it, life’s been hard for people throughout the centuries, but being pessimistic hasn’t made us happier. So I propose, we turn our thoughts to looking for the positive things happening in our lives.

Now I know that’s not easy. Some people have depression or other mental challenges, which means their brains have a hard time going to those positive places. At least it’s hard to do without help. However, those of us who can snap out of a funk need to give changing our thinking a try. All it takes is paying attention to our reactions and what we say about our challenges both inside our heads, and verbally.

As we all know life’s not all a bed roses and rainbows. Everything worth doing grows out of commitment and struggle. The baby is born with a lot of pain and effort on the part of the mother. But the pain and struggle vanish the moment the baby arrives. The child goes to school and learns discipline so they can be educated. At each achievement the child sees the value of the effort. The artist uses talent, discipline and an open connection to something larger than themselves to create their work, which gives pleasure. Any endeavor humans undertake is fraught with challenges. But people keep having babies, and children continue to go to school. Artists continue to follow their muses and create. People still start businesses, volunteer, or work for good causes. Life goes on and society progresses. The reason we continue to strive is because we see the benefits of the effort.

So, I propose for those of us who can, let’s make the effort to stop being cynical and pessimistic about the future. I don’t mean that we should ignore the problems we face. What I propose is that we look at the problems in a new way. What if, when faced with a challenge, we said to ourselves, “There is a solution to this and I can find it.”

So, going back to my generation’s relationship with our children, what if we trusted them? What if we remembered what it was like to face the condemnation of our parents and grandparents and refused to do that to our children and grandchildren? We Baby Boomers are rabble rousers. Let’s continue to be rabble rousers and strive to understand and support our children as they make their contributions to society. After all they came into the world we built for them. We have to take responsibility for that.

My generation has done some pretty amazing things. I trust the generations coming along to do even more astonishing things that will help make this world a better place in which to live. In fact they already are.

And, since I’m not ready to give up making my contributions to society, I’m going to stop concentrating on the ills, and look for all the good things that are happening. When enough of us do that, who knows what great things we’ll create.

© Lucinda Sage-Midgorden
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