“As is the generation of leaves, so is that of humanity.
The wind scatters the leaves on the ground, but the live timber
Burgeons with leaves again in the season of spring returning.
So one generation of men will grow while another dies.”
– Homer, Iliad
“The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children.”
– Clarence Darrow
“It is one of nature’s ways that we often feel closer to distant generations than to the generation immediately preceding us.”
– Igor Stravinsky
“There is nothing wrong with today’s teenager that twenty years won’t cure.”
Life goes on without interruption (for “life interruption” is an illusion, being simply a matter of subjective judgment and feelings) as time flies, so to speak. Generations come and go leaving imprints of their highest and lowest points, i.e., both good and despicable, as well as both pleasing and unpleasant. Humanity has witnessed the flux of generations as in the case of an old one gradually dissipating and giving way to a new one in a very spontaneous process. But even the notion of total dissipation is an illusion for there are always traces of the past that continue to linger in the present whether such are clearly vivid in consciousness or hibernating in the unconscious to be awakened in some future moment. Generations are temporal stations of being whose natural relationships are essentially interconnected in memory and reflection.
However, the train of events that runs from one generation to the next is not only characterized in a movement controlled by an unseen mysterious power which is also an illusion. The cause-effect continuum is the most viable paradigm to assess the meaningfulness of passing generations in the most reasonable context. One state of affairs gives rise to another which in turn gives rise to a new one and then another one is spawned by the former and the whole perpetual motion goes on and on and on, ad infinitum. There is therefore not a single generation unconnected with the previous one. In other words, generations are all interrelated.
Nevertheless, the continuum doesn’t imply passivity for within the dynamics itself of the movement are active components that emanate from the will-power of human entities being the principal players in the game of life. Paychoanalysis both in its Freudian kind and the Jungian depth psychology variety as well presupposes the vital interconnectedness of generations past and present in the life of an individual human and the significant influence of the past in the present dispensation. Circumstances at face value could appear very dissimilar but a close scrutiny that likewise gets us to their “historical” backgrounds would give us the whole story that in one way or another links them and makes us realize that one couldn’t have been possible at all without the other.
But veering away from the theoretical and getting face to face with what is actually obtaining in life as it has been humanly experienced–both current and historical–brings us to the reality that generations don’t see eye to eye. The present finds a myriad of faults in the past while the past gets upset with the present because of what the former perceives as blatant interruptions that demand change. The past doesn’t want modification while the present wants to do away with the past. At first glance, we see a linear progression but a deeper analysis brings us to a cyclical motion with the realization that the past used to be the present displaying the same attitude aggressively perpetrated by what is present now. In the coming next generation, the expectation is almost a foregone conclusion that the present now will be past at the inception of a new one and the whole cycle repeats itself.
The lyrics of the song “Father and Son” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kea0ghm7Z4E] penned and popularized in the 1970s by the British singer-songwriter Cat Stevens (later, Yusuf Islam after converting to Islam) poetically reflects how the old and the new don’t sit well with each other in the simple context of how a father relates with his son and vice versa. The father’s admonition is heard in the first and second stanzas as follows:
It’s not time to make a change
Just relax, take it easy
You’re still young, that’s your fault
There’s so much you have to know
Find a girl, settle down
If you want you can marry
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy
I was once like you are now
And I know that it’s not easy
To be calm when you’ve found
Something going on
But take your time, think a lot
Think of everything you’ve got
For you will still be here tomorrow
But your dreams may not
Then the irritated son replies in the third and fifth stanzas:
How can I try to explain?
When I do he turns away again
It’s always been the same, same old story
From the moment I could talk
I was ordered to listen
Now there’s a way
And I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go
All the times that I’ve cried
Keeping all the things I knew inside
It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it
If they were right I’d agree
But it’s them they know, not me
Now there’s a way
And I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go
New experiences, new realities in the context of the young which seem to be ordinary matters easily handled from the point of view of the more experienced “all-knowing” father are supposed to be challenging and exciting moments to the former which the latter tends to simply dismiss as things that may casually be handled if the son would only sit down and listen to “the voice of experience”.
On the one hand, the old generation seems to have gotten used to impose too much of its values on the new one with the implied thought that old values are time-tested and thus almost universal and timeless in their applicability. This is an area of advocacy where old-timers are more often inaccurate and faulty and such is simply because they just don’t have the openmindedness to listen to and feel “the signs of the times”. Time has stopped in their dogmatic musing with the absolute belief that things must happen as they have happened in their lifetime. Events just repeat themselves and this notion is the sole factor that grants them the edge over and above the young generation who in recognition of such truth must listen to and take heed of their words. . . . Been there; done that.
On the other hand, the new generation gets into the trap of ignoring the lessons of the past which in general are matters of historical significance. Recklessness is the path taken with an air of aggressiveness which in many instances is on full throttle and heedless of risks and threats of trouble lurking along the way. With the seemingly airtight notion that new exigencies require new approaches and the old ways are irrelevant and non-operative, young people of the new generation are just normally dismissive of warnings from the more experienced old-timers. With a certain degree of youthful arrogance, young folks are convinced that these old-timers need to toe their line if they want themselves to make sense in the new generation. Accepting new realities and approaching them with the instrumentalities of the present dispensation is the name of the game and the reversed dynamic is that the old-timers are supposed to be the ones to listen to the voices of the new generation.
Assessing the entire landscape from a more objective platform, it may be reasonably viewed that apparently both sides have an extremist tendency despite the fact that a common ground is perfectly in sight. Obviously, stubborness afflicts both sides and nobody wants to give an inch. This is the key area why the battle continues. The old generation is backed up by the solidness of irrevocable experiences in both triumphs and defeats while the new generation is pushed forward by an aggressive spirit to explore and conquer terrains of new possibilities. Indeed very few are sober-minded enough on both sides to sit back and put their heads together to understand each other and give their concerns a run for their money, so to speak.
But how really “all-knowing” are we to make a final evaluation at this point and theoretically insist that a common ground is perfectly achievable? Perhaps not at all and the conflict between generations continues relentlessly for this very condition makes the world go round and inspires life in a more exhilarating way.
(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 25 November 2014