As I have often said, I get up each day to see what I might learn today. And it never fails. Some idea always comes my way.
Recently that idea came from an interview in the NY TIMES with Frances McDormand, Oscar-winning actress and realist. I add that last adjective, not because it appeared in print, but because that is what I gleaned from her remarks.
She is 57, frankly admits it and has done nothing, surgically or cosmetically, to disguise the fact. Her remarks bore this out: "There is no desire to be an adult. Adulthood is not a goal. It is not seen as a gift. No one is supposed to age past 45 – sartorially, cosmetically, attitudinally...”
I read and reread that, and, pow, as the comics used to say, it hit me hard. This indeed is our world, with its emphasis on youth and its blanket denial of the fact that the elders are beginning to outnumber the youngers, with interesting consequences.
Long ago, in another century, G.B. Shaw warned us that we were going to be old a lot longer than we were young. Our society has forgotten his words, he who was a nonagenarian when he wrote them.
No one aspires any longer to grow up, not in a society that finds no value in that. Be young, dress young, look young and …There is no conclusion for that thought. Now the social scientists tell us that adolescence ends at 30. But what is the next phase? It is not adulthood. Is it only post-adolescence?
We have come a long way from the tribal life that honored the elders as the holders of wisdom and experience, those to whom the younger members looked. Part of this dislocation stems from the bursting world of technology which has excluded many of the elders. That is true, but technological knowledge is not the only wisdom in the world, is it? What about human relations, people skills, sorting out the chaff from the past and retaining the grains of wisdom?
I keep returning to McDormand’s interview and her remarks on love: “I’ve been with a man for 35 years who looks at me and loves what he sees.” I remember the two 90 year olds who came to my class until they were parted by death. They sat each week, holding hands and sharing smiles of love. They were adults who had both had professional careers as well as a happy marriage and they kept on learning.
What is an adult today? I have to keep thinking about that.