Becoming irrelevant at the speed of light
d wrld iz moving fst. d old ways R 4gottn. d nu ways R untested. wot do U do now?
Perhaps the first time an ancient person discovers s/he no longer fits well into the world is when he must ask his or her 5th-grade grandson or granddaughter how to set up and configure the new computer or cell phone.
Perhaps the ancient person sees how out of touch s/he is when confronted with a list of recent songs, singers, and movies and realizes s/he has never heard of any of them.
Or, perhaps–and this is heavy stuff–the discovery that one is becoming irrelevant at the speed of light occurs when an old man or an old woman discovers that most of what passes for urgent and interesting these days just doesn’t matter.
Prospective lack of relevance is often brought home to an aging writer when s/he looks at a book marketing guru’s list of hot topics for prospective bestselling books and realizes s/he has never heard of them or doesn’t understand why they are hot. The aging writer often looks at the names of purportedly relevant writers who–according to essays in writers’ magazines–are doing important work and/or who are part of the prestigious faculty for MFA writing programs and asks, “Who are these people?”
Those of us who were brought up as children of the 60s or who were conditioned to believe each person has within them all the skills and knowledge to become the very best they can be are now wondering “what the hell happened.” We were in those days fighting “the establishment” which could be variously translated as the military/industrial complex or the “we’ve always done it this way” line of thought. So, our own particular kind of brainwashing led us to believe that one way or another we would make a difference and be part of our generation’s wont to be a catalyst for change. And yet, the world continues to face the same problems and so do we.
And lately–from the point of view of an ancient person–many of the solutions to the old problems now seem worse than the problems. Those on both sides of the political divide seem to have lost their minds.
I wonder if it was always an arrogant goal to think one–or even his/her generation–would ever be relevant other than on some statistician’s spreadsheet about attitudes from one decade to the next when it came to either changing the world for the better or changing himself/herself in transcendent ways that explained “the big picture.” Yes, maybe the children of the 1960s were full of themselves. Unfortunately, according to studies, a lot of them told out and ultimately joined “the establishment” and began to look more and more like the people they were protesting against when they were young.
I’ve read that youth tends to feel immortal and old people tend to feel like they could have been contenders if they hadn’t taken the wrong path or fallen in with the wrong people or the wrong ideas. If you’re over 70, does that idea strike a chord?
Some say that every time a person takes a positive step, the world becomes slightly better even though the changes aren’t earthshaking or noticeable. Maybe that’s the best we can hope for. Maybe relevance is simply pride and ego and nothing else. Maybe each of us has carried a small nugget of relevance within ourseves for a lifetime and hasn’t been aware of the bits and pieces of good we have done.