As you might expect I’ve had a few folks take exception with my depiction of our 60s and 70s as “only” October. So far no one has argued for “September,” but a few have suggested a later month. Truth to tell, there are days when “November” better describes my mood and/or physical capabilities. Heck, I’ve probably dipped a toe in “December” a time or two.
But of course my use of “October” is not meant to be simply about age. The way I use that label, October is a state of mind. More to the point, like the October on your calendar our October Years are a time of harvest---a time to gather the fruit of all the seeds we’ve sown and the things we’ve learned in the course of our already long lifetime. I happen to believe that we’ve reached the time of life when that experience can be put to good use.
One of the risks in telling October stories is the temptation to dwell on the maudlin---stressing the negatives and hardships. Of course, by this stage of life we’ve all had our share of bumpy roads and unexpected detours. And there will be more. If we’ve been paying attention at all we should expect that. In this post, however, I would like to move beyond our individual situations and address something less expected---something for which my personal life journey has not adequately prepared me.
At our age infirmity and distress are sure to have been part of our personal experience. I can accept that. Yet scarcely a day goes by when this October mind of mine does not struggle to make sense of a larger reality---the cultural infirmities and distress that plague our society. I wonder if it has always been like this. Is this the human norm? Or has there been a fundamental change in the path of human development? Is there a new “human norm” evolving?
How else would you interpret the headlines that assault our sensibilities daily? It feels like every morning’s newspaper and every evening’s newscast provides new evidence of predators and perverts, addictions and mayhem. Have we actually become so accepting of such an unprecedented scale of gun violence? Have we grown so numb that we look right past the all too obvious warning signs---middle-school girls being bullied to death---wide-eyed young men unleashing their lethal revenge in our high schools---an ever-increasing number of us, young and old, dependent on mind-altering pharmaceuticals? There are times when it seems that our beloved nation is drowning in a tsunami of insanity.
Surely I am not the only one who wonders what is happening to our world---this place where we grew up and perhaps thought we understood. There are days when I’m not sure I recognize the place---when it feels like everything has changed. Small wonder the October characters I write about sometimes stumble as they try to make sense of it.
I’d appreciate your help here, your input. My question is simple enough. Has it always been like this? I’ll bet every one of us grew up hearing our parents and grand-parents grumbling about “the younger generation,” and how things were not like “the good old days.” Are today’s headlines just more of the same, or is our generation dealing with something new and different?
Did the world of our childhood and adolescence include the troubles we read about and watch on the tube? And if it did, has the scale and frequency of those problems changed---or is our awareness simply a matter of more thorough reporting, better police work, and cameras on every street corner? In either case, I have no doubt that for many of our October friends this crazy new world threatens their ability to “thrive in our 60s and 70s.” I’d say that makes it an October issue.
If you agree I hope you'll pass this on to your October friends. (The email link below is easy to use.) I'd be interested in hearing their input too.