Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ruminations on age.

There comes a problem in the world, what to do with the old people.

Young people, despite their egalitarian protestations, say they don't hate old people. But they do.

For one, they're living reminders that they, someday, will be old.

Two, we old people usually have the best apartments, the most money, the biggest jobs.

In short, we're standing in the way of others' success.

So, as an old guy (when Beethoven was my age, he was already dead) what do you do? How do you find a role for yourself in a world that regards you, at best, as interference?

I often think about what my life would be like if I didn't run out of money in 1980 and had been able to pursue my dream of gaining my PhD. in English Literature and teaching English at a small, but prestigious college in New England.

If I were at such a school, the younger, hotter, cooler assistant professors would be breathing down my neck. They'd be publishing more. Going to more symposia. They'd be more relevant than I.

How could I survive that, I think. Sure, maybe tenure would be protecting me--a big difference from the ad industry--but hanging on with tenure is not the survival I mean. Hanging on is not how I want to spend my remaining years.

I think if I were in that ivy-covered place, the way to have a vital role is to find something foundational that you can do that others can't. For instance, know more about Chaucer--the real wisdom of the man and his works--than anyone else. In my fantasy situation, I might be unable to decipher, critique or write a paper on the trans-gender realities of the Wyfe of Bath, but--certainly after a lifetime of reading, living and working--I would know more of Chaucer's truth than other more callow scholars.

The same is true in an ad agency, I think.

I suck at popular culture. I find it crude, humorless and vulgar.

Don't ask me to do a spot for Doritos.

But if there's a problem--and there always is--that demands a print-like discipline to unravel it, well, that's what 57-year-olds, and 67-year-olds can do. Visually and verbally we can simplify complicated thoughts.

My older daughter is about to earn her PhD. as a Clinical Psychologist. She is a brilliant young woman. She does not do couples therapy, however.

"I don't have the miles in my tank," she says.

I think there are dozens of agency veterans who have a lot of miles in their tank. Who can handle things that few others can do. They have the wisdom of life, some of them.

There must be something for them to do.

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