The Wisdom of the Elderly

It’s easy for young people to disregard the elderly. They’re not tech-savvy, pretty, sexy, or knowledgeable about music, technology, and a whole range of other topics. Some older people appear entrenched in a bygone past that life has swept away.

Do they have anything to offer to a generation consumed with chatting, gaming, texting, liking, streaming, sharing music and videos, and spending hours a day online?

In fact, with decades of hard-earned experiences, the elderly are uniquely equipped to offer insights to young people who are distracted by noise, texts, fashions, images, and self-protective strategies of a faster pace of life.

Mr. Burgess, the ninety-something teacher of Bibi’s charge, Quinn, is an example in point. Though his punchy little lessons didn’t make it into the final draft of Bibi, I’m including some of them here as points to ponder:

“Do we need to talk about the dangers of an overzealous government agency gaining access to information about you? If Franz Kafka’s character in The Trial, published in 1924, became a victim of a system that intruded into his life, arrested him without charges, persecuted him, and in the end killed him, do you think you have less to worry about today?”

“It’s easy to fall into an innocent, comfortable state of mind as we sit in our semi-darkened rooms at night, staring at computer screens. No one else is up. No one else is around. No one knows what you’re looking at or reading. You’re safe, you think. But that’s an illusion, all mirrors and trickery. There may be no one at your shoulder, peeking to see what you’re up to. There may be no one who’s turned on your webcam without your permission. The absence of a physical presence doesn’t mean that no one’s watching, though. Even the best invasion-proof software can’t protect you completely. You may be thinking, ‘It doesn’t matter. I’m doing nothing wrong.’ Listen: your innocence, your lack of culpability, your wide-eyed optimism will not protect you. Too many throughout history have been lynched, hanged, or shot for less than someone could dig up on you today.”

“What power that little switch on your phone holds. When you flip it on, your location is broadcast. Oh, the deals you can find! And directions to the best restaurants and clubs! You’ll get the weather and news about events you might otherwise have missed. You’ll give thieves information about where you are, when you are. There could even be a sexual deviant in the area! And don’t forget the crazies, the terrorists, and the killers. Yes, that location service is a true boon.”

“I have special news for you young men. You, more than women, are ripe pickings for Internet porn sites. The stuff is addictive, and they know it. All it takes for you to get hooked is one click. Knowing your newfound interest, they’ll advertise to your desires, whether you’re actively looking for it or not. But watch out, because it’s a dangerous game. As you succumb to the images and respond to the stimulation in the comfort of your home, you will be stumbling along a path that leads to impotency. Your future relationships with women and very possibly your ability to procreate will be hampered, even ruined. And it doesn’t stop there. By imbibing the potent drink of pornography, you’ll be part of the exploitation of marginalized women across the globe. Now picture yourself on your deathbed. Your strength, looks, and body are spent. Unbidden, your life and the way you chose to live it flood your mind. In those final moments of your life, do you want to recall the memory of jacking off in a darkened room before the image of a woman who’s been enslaved and will die in a few short years of an STD? The paths to ruin are plenteous, boys. Run from them while you can.”

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