As you might expect, over the years 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 quite a few of you have suggested a later month.
Truth to tell, there are days when “November” better describes my mood and physical capabilities. Heck, I’ve probably dipped a toe in “December” a time or two. That’s why a few months ago I stepped forward to add “and November too” to the blog’s title.
But of course my use of “October” was never meant to be simply about age. When I use that label I am thinking of October as a state of mind. More to the point, like the October on a calendar, our October Years (and November too) are a time of harvest---a time to gather the fruits of all the seeds we’ve sown in the course of a lifetime and the things we’ve learned along the way. I happen to believe that even at our later years there are ways we can put that experience to good use.
I will admit that one of the risks I face in telling the October stories I tell is the temptation to dwell on the maudlin---stressing the negatives and hardships of late life. Of course, by this stage of the game we’ve all had our share of bumpy roads and unexpected detours. And there will be more of those. If we’ve been paying attention at all we should expect that.
But this morning I am prompted to move beyond our individual circumstances and address something I find even more upsetting---something for which my personal life journey and the life views I have accumulated have not adequately prepared me to deal with.
If you are my age, infirmity and distress are sure to have been part of your personal experience. I can accept that. Yet scarcely a day goes by when this November mind of mine does not struggle to make sense of a more sinister reality---the cultural infirmity and divisive distress that plague our society.
What I perceive as the chaotic unraveling of our national persona has me wondering if things have always been this way. Having been lulled by decades of relatively-civilized peace, are we simply experiencing a regression to the human norm? Or has there been a fundamental change in the path of social evolution? Is there a new “human norm” being created?
How else would you interpret the headlines that assault our sensibilities daily? On the local level it feels like every morning’s newspaper and every evening’s newscast provides new evidence of predators and perverts, addicts and con-men, not to mention politicians gone amuck. At times it seems we have become accepting of an unprecedented scale of violence and mayhem.
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.
And while our towns and neighborhoods struggle to stay afloat, our national political dysfunction continues to stir the flames of discord. Finger pointing and blame have displaced bipartisan problem solving.
In a world of spiteful politics and crushing, always mounting debt, most of which will never be repaid, the great majority of us are being hung out to dry. Meanwhile the Wall Street and Washington vultures slowly circle, fighting to get their piece of the pie before it vanishes into the economic quicksand. The supposedly “drained swamps” still hide menacing creatures, and smell as bad as always.
Surely I am not the only one who wonders what has happened to the world we knew. It becomes harder and harder to recognize the country where I grew up and perhaps thought I understood. Small wonder the October characters I write about are apt to stumble as they try to make sense of it.
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 this bad in “the good old days.” As I recall those same old sayings included hints of ancient cultures where age was equated with wisdom. Truth to tell, I’m getting old, but the wisdom and understanding I had hoped to gain seem to have eluded me.
So, are today’s headlines just more of the same? Did the world of our childhood and adolescence always include the troubles we read about now and watch on the tube? And if it did, is it the scale and frequency of those problems that has changed---or is our increased awareness simply a matter of more thorough reporting, better police work, and cameras on every street corner?
Whether or not our generation is dealing with something new and different, I have no doubt that for many of us, this crazy new world impacts our ability to “thrive in our 60s and 70s.” If so, I’d say that makes it an October issue.
I would appreciate your help here, your input. If you wish, I hope you'll pass this on to your October and November friends. (The email link below is easy to use.) As always I'd be interested in hearing your input via “Reply.” (below)
With that, I will try to calm down a bit in time for the next post.
Some long-time readers may have noticed that once again I have edited an earlier post (6/27/14) to fit what seems to me a new and different world---one that I am struggling to make sense of. Will this rant of mine change the course of our descent? Not likely. Still, someone needs to speak up about these October concerns.