Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wednesday Factoid: My generation

Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What can older people learn from your generation?

I guess I could be really specific with this and talk about skills Generation X can teach the generation before ours, but I think I wanna be more general.

Every generation needs to accept that the next generation's way of doing things is not inferior just because it isn't theirs.

Let's say you have a recipe and you've always made it a certain way. There is one ingredient that takes a very long time to prepare properly, and cultivating that ingredient and preparing it is an art in itself. And then you find out that your children's generation has a way to buy that ingredient in the store, already prepared, and they don't see the point of learning your old, labor-intensive, time-consuming way anymore.

So you harrumph and talk about kids today and bring up the superiority of your way, insisting it tastes better, that there's something inauthentic about products made with the new way, refusing to acknowledge that buying something ready-made has benefits that they, for whatever reason, value more than you do.

I see a lot of people who resist new ways of doing things basically just out of principle. To be honest, homemade food made by someone who really cares and has perfected a technique is usually going to taste very good, and sure, there is sentimental value attached to it. But your way can be good at the same time as the new way can be good.

Instead of recognizing the good that comes with new ways, sometimes you see people clinging to the old just on principle, sometimes refusing to convert to the new way even when it causes them MORE stress to keep doing it the old way, convinced there's something inherently better about the old way and telling the world that kids today will never be able to learn patience or whatever character strength you imagine only the setbacks and frustrations of your day can possibly teach a person.

Our generation has its own lessons of patience. Most of us did not have to incorporate patience into our ability palette through the act of butter churning. And while it's certainly legitimate to feel the next generation's challenges are too easy because they don't struggle with the same things, it's not any more authentic to force false struggles upon them that don't reflect the world they live in. There will always be plenty of those. If you keep a challenge in the world that has to be manufactured just so a young person will develop a skill to deal with it, you're separating the application of that skill from where they will encounter it in the real world. It's okay if you sort of feel young people's way of doing things cheapens the experience or lessens the value of the output. But it should also be okay if, say, the younger person values getting something done fast while you value succeeding after long hours or hard labor. You should not have to introduce unnecessary frustration or goalpost-moving before a young person will value achievements. It's not going to turn the world backwards.

I think my generation has plenty to learn and plenty to teach, but even though I know the previous generation has wisdom about some things just from life experience, I also know they aren't immune to believing themselves above learning anything from us. Wise people can learn perspectives from children. Pulling rank and expecting the ways you've become accustomed to to be accepted as standard until the end of your life is childish and unrealistic. As much as we'd all probably like to hear otherwise, our young adulthood was not the pinnacle of What Society Should Be, against which other generations should be judged. We aren't better than you or worse than you, and most of us don't think we are.

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