Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Dear “Kids” (To mid-life adults!)

Originally posted on March 31, 2011

What a funny phrase, “kids.”  On one hand, you’re “our” kids, and on the other hand you’ve moved through young-adulthood, career development, parenting, and are now middle aged!  You have kids!  But what else should we call you?!  I still hear the verse from the song, “Sunrise, Sunset” from the 1960s hit Broadway Musical, Fiddler on the Roof, the line that says, “What words of wisdom can we give them?”

Everything’s changed so much, speeded up so much. Kenneth Gergen in the 1990s wrote about the saturated culture, by which I think he meant that we teeter close to role overload, over-extension, over-commitment. Add to that the number of fractional roles (I just wrote an essay about this concept today on this blog—I just made it up) that are involved in partaking of mass media. When a television show is involving, we are fractionally caught up as a vicarious co-participator. Ditto for sports. When a movie is finished, the images linger, as does perhaps some bits of dialog or song. And depending on how connected or plugged in you may be, there is even more music, lyrics, visual images—the opposite of peace and quiet and even more opposite of meditation. My impression is that all this has actually intensified in the last decade. Also the normal speech of adults in parts of the United States seems to have speeded up just enough so that older folks have trouble understanding what you’re saying! (Is it slight deafness on our part as elders, or more likely the use of a dialect that is unfamiliar? While a slight accent can be charming and piquant, there’s a certain point when a dialect becomes just thick enough to be near-un-intelligible.)

The point I am moved to note today is that we live in an era I’ve called exponential times, and that a skill that needs to be developed to cope with this time in cultural evolution is the opposite of what was the social norm forty to sixty years ago. Back then it was learn more, do more, get more, expand. Now the tide is rushing in and what is needed is the construction of mental barriers to what might be overloading stimuli. Combine that with other habits of slowing down, enjoying quiet and leisurely activities, actively resisting the strong temptations to fill the empty spaces with often intense noise, taste, social contact, partying spirit, rah-rah, etc.

[Some of these blog pieces are aimed at my mid-adult kids and other mid-adults who are probably also the kids of their elderly parents. It’s a funny role for me to take, since parts of me are still very much mid-life—and parts of me are still in their teens or younger. (Actually, I think that part of the art of living fully involves the preservation, redemption, and celebration of all potential life roles.)]

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