Aging and Perspective
Torches pass. One generation looks for promotion as one contemplates retirement or semi-retirement – and while both generations are twined in the same moment and movement, the emotions and experiences are opposed and threaten to isolate and diminish one or both camps if not tempered with genuine acceptance and awareness.
Or to quote General Eric Shinseki, retired Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”
In my day job, counseling business owners, I see this tension playing out in not understanding how to market to a universe of prospects that is increasingly (and at an accelerated pace) becoming younger. Acceptance of this fact is difficult. There is still much denial, which is inevitably followed by bewilderment. Why aren’t the tactics that worked 17 years ago not working today?
This reality is mirrored in popular culture as well. For example, in making his Oscar predictions, Roger Ebert notes, “The dark horse in some categories this year may be ‘Django Unchained,’ which appeals to an academy that is growing so much younger that, in many cases, these people have actually grown up on Tarantino.”
The dynamics and emotional pain of what is to be unseated in a changing (changed) landscape are at the core of last night’s Downton Abbey albeit in a different era. Lord Grantham is for most of the episode horrified at what Matthew is proposing for Downton. It is a thick blend of change contrary to conventional wisdom and the more threatening horror of admitting that what got you here is irrelevant and impotent in the coming pages and challenges of your life.
Everyone but Lord Grantham is looking in a different direction.
I’m at an age (53) where I can relate to both sides. It’s hard to let go of the torch. But it’s eventually rewarding and fulfilling to embrace change and make a positive contribution. It’s a relief to see Lord Grantham move in that direction versus continuing in denial and bitterness where isolation is the only quarter that will house the attitude.
I thought the transformation was handled in a believable and inspiring way – though I felt the writing piled on a bit with Lord Gratham referencing Charles Ponzi investment opportunities.
We all want to matter.
And, we all want to be happy. Which brings me to last night’s episode of Girls ‘One Man’s Trash.” As much as Downton was about the grace and self awareness necessary to pass the torch, Girls is about the next generation in line, moving toward their moment of ultimately taking the torch, but as seemingly attached to “these hipster good times” as James Poniewozik so succinctly puts it, as Lord Grantham is attached to the past.
It’s impossible for me to believe that Hannah was the same person exiting Joshua’s brownstone that entered. Pleasure and crisis, wanting and rejecting, fantasy and reality all contribute to who we are as a person. How we balance and how we change are the ingredients to a happy life that matters.