Sunday, August 28, 2011
THE KIDS THESE DAYS
Good race at Bristol this week. No wrecks. A few yellow flags, mostly debris on the track. Bristol is a tight track, not very wide and only half a mile. 135 or so is top end on the straight away where you hit the gas all the way, then hit the brake for the curve. The track being so narrow, not much room was available for passing somebody. 2 cars side-by-side were difficult to pass when they didn't want to be passed. In this particular race on this particular track it looked like all the cars had the same capabilities, and it looked like just about everybody held their position after a certain point early in the race, and holding your place was the best could be done. Out in front, the front 5 changed positions a little bit, but not much. Jeff Gordon was out in front, then a pit stop put him back to third and there he stayed. He couldn't get by one and two.
Next day, talking with a friend on the phone. Before I mentioned the race, I knew there would be some kind of block-headed opinion to counter it. He's also a contrarian, couldn't agree with you if you had documentation to prove what you're saying. He retorted, "I don't like racing. People just watch racing to see somebody die. I don't approve of violence" Phew! That was a bucket full and running over. Knowing the professor had spoken and there's no going back on adamant opinions, no point saying anything, really, I went on and said, "Nobody died in the race. Drivers don't die in races anymore. They wear seatbelts. The cars are constructed to prevent fatalities as much as possible." I was talking to the wall. Like Bobby Allison got hit broadside in his door at 200 mph. It addled him in a big way, but he survived. Friend has a long, long list of buttons that release opinions like a toy for a 2 yr old--push the cow button, it says, "moo," press the sheep button, it says, "baa."
In my younger years, I made a vow to myself I would never be of the mind that starts sentences, The kids these days.... I caught myself starting a sentence that way somewhere between 5 and 10 years ago, stopped myself and gave myself a talking to. At lunch last time we went, I listened to much about "the kids these days," they're just alike, and it wasn't just some, it was "all of em." I'm thinking: the girl in the 11th grade reading the Iliad and the Odyssey for fun and the boy who quit school after the 9th grade because his probation officer recommended it. (What kind of probation officer would do that? If you knew the boy, you'd understand.) Just alike. The one who read the Iliad and the Odyssey in the 11th grade got her PhD at Berkeley this year. The kid on probation will have been in prison probably several years by the time he's the age of the girl with the PhD. Just alike? Saw a commercial of Michael Jordon on a plane and a dorky white guy saying to him, "We're just alike," and every time he said it, Jordon said, "No we're not." The boy on probation and the girl with the PhD are about as alike as a gas and a solid.
These are just two cases from "all of em." However, if I were to bring this up at the table, it would be out of order. I'd be contradicting an opinion. His opinions are the foundation of universal truth. Gold plated. That's ok. I'm a moral relativist and he won't have it that morality is anything but black and white. "You'll never have me believing morality is relative!" And I didn't even try. Talking with him has become like talking with a man of my grandfather's generation when I was young. I'm sorry to see friend has succumbed to that way of thinking about himself, and glad to see I have not, or anyway not entirely. Have to allow for unconscious behavior my inner editor misses. This is somebody who calls himself so liberal he's a "revolutionary." That's his word for himself. He put a flower in a National Guardsman's rifle barrel during a demonstration at U of Tennessee "back in the day," when friend was a hippie, a drug addict and a revolutionary. I'm so happy I went to a small school and couldn't pretend any of that nonsense. I wanted to badly, but it didn't take.
So there is not only watching friends and peers die out as one grows older, but watching surviving friends atrophy in the mind starting about age 50 or before. I do not enjoy sweeping statements about the kids today. I've always kept it in the foreground to have young friends, to know some kids. They're not all alike. They're what the older generation shapes them into, and their world is largely so boring--school, homework, television--there comes a time paying attention falls away on its own. I happen to know some young kids very well educated, who pay attention in school and have their own interests. And I know some it would take sticking a gun barrel in their faces to get them to pay attention, and then only for as long as the gun stays cocked. And there's everything in between. I'm glad to say I've come to a place in my advancing years where I don't feel the need to tell younger people how to live. I don't even know what to tell myself how to live.
I look at some of my younger friends, two couples age 28, thereabouts, different cultures, and I see very different people. I don't think one is better than another. I find when I'm with Justin and Crystal I feel no need, even the remotest, to give them any advice on anything. Hail far! It would be more their place to advise me. When it comes to getting along in this world, both of them, individually, have left me way back in the dust. They've already got a few laps on me. I look at them with admiration. I think they have it so together compared to myself at that age, or ever. Then Meredith and Greg have me completely blown away that I even know people so far beyond me as they are. I see them all people with brilliant minds and they're using their minds well. I think, very well. These are kid's I've watched grow up. Whenever I'd start to think a sentence that starts, the kids these days, Justin and Meredith would come to mind and that would be the end of it. I say kids relatively. I could be their grandparent. Better, I'm their friend.