Being serious has its down side. Age seems to compound it.
The avid hand-wringers remind us constantly that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and you say to yourself, take a deep breath because it was ever thus. You try to tune out the noise and keep perspective.
But maybe they’re right, you begin to wonder. Encountering the rude and clueless is no longer an occasional random event but an everyday burden. Civility is dead, and anger is in the air. And the young. Yes, let’s get started on the young.
They spend their days in the fantasy land of video games, in a state of willful arrested development. Well, the boys do, and I mean boys, as in not grownups. The other day, I told a 20-something female friend that I weep for the womenfolk of her age ever hoping to find suitable husbands. Yeah, she said, I’ve kind of given up.
And their social skills, we are told, are abominable. Actually, there is evidence that all that online time rewires the brain and makes the brain’s user less capable of empathy, which is a rather big part of being a human. Personally, I think living too deep into the computer forest is part of what causes the maddening literal-mindedness that makes it impossible to have a conversation with some of these unearthly beings.
Or maybe it’s me. I know perfectly well what I’m talking about, except for all that stuff I can’t remember and that other stuff on which my memories are as sure as they are wrong. Why can’t these young people – with decades less of a knowledge base growing less relevant by the day – keep up with all that?
On the other hand, why would they bother? Still, at some point, the young gather around the elders for the counsel and guidance that can only come from life’s many experiences, right? Am I less interesting than the latest app? Wait. Don’t answer that.
Last weekend the Scouts camped and fished. There were no video games, unless it was on phones well hidden from me. We talked about fishing, and we learned the right knot to tie on a hook, where to set the bobber, which bait or lures to use and how. We caught fish and wondered aloud about other cool places to fish. We cooked and ate and cleaned up, and two of those three skills are less common among the young than you might think.
We fussed, and we got along. We heard owls and coyotes in the night. Directly or indirectly, we talked about America, as we always do. We talked about books to be read over the summer, and what school brings this fall, and that awesome part from that awesome movie that was awesomely funny. The refrain from “Let it Go” was sung a few times. Yes, by boys. It was a moment. You had to be there.
It was life, and it wasn’t simulated, so that’s something. The young drive us crazy, but they give us hope.
So although I am entirely inclined to be very serious and join the hand-wringers, I’ll save my energy for more worthy things.
Like remembering all that vital stuff I forgot.
Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter @Jeff_Fox.