At some point in our society, the youth of our nation began taking the stage and pushing forward new ideas that they felt made sense to them. At some point, the elders of our society began allowing this to happen, perhaps thinking that fresh and new ideas were a good thing. This is true to some point, but when taken too far it begins causing some serious problems for the people who tend to know better. Like a burst dam, once the flow begins, it is very difficult to stop.
There used to be a time in the world where elders were respected and listened to. The wisdom of life is a very valuable thing, but it is unfortunately not until you begin truly learning that wisdom yourself that you truly begin to understand that value. The new ideas we have when we are young that sound so great when we don’t know any better become bitter pills later on in life as we look back at what could have been easily avoided if we had learned the lessons from the past.
This is not to say that all new ideas are bad. Our species has moved forward so quickly because of amazing new ideas that propelled us into new realms of science and philosophy. The American form of democracy is a shining example of brave new thoughts that have stood the test of time. But if we really look at the best ideas…the ones that truly last…we see that they rarely come from someone who was barely old enough to have left their parents.
Human beings have a huge capacity for ingenuity, but most of the time that capacity on its own isn’t enough to create something truly wonderful. Almost invariably, there is some sort of struggle involved in the process. There has to be something to be overcome to prompt us to think outside the box and come up with something new. This is where we come up with that ubiquitous axiom “necessity is the mother of all invention”. We come up with things when we need them.
One of the downsides to our modern society that has everything at its fingertips is that there isn’t any real struggle anymore, at least not in the mainstream public. Certainly there are areas of our nation where people live in poverty or have other adverse conditions, but for the most part the average American enjoys a sense of security and prosperity unparalleled in history. We worry about things, but we never have to truly face those heart stopping moments that our ancestors had to deal with. We are safe in our protected little bubbles.
Still, our biology includes as part of its makeup a drive to move forward. It doesn’t matter that most people don’t have any real reason to do anything more than grind through the routine of their lives. There is a primal passion within us that must be satisfied, and we will go to any length to find whatever it is that will satisfy that need to move forward. And to do that we are willing to smash that safe little bubble to pieces for the smallest of chances that the result will turn out better than what we had.
This is where wisdom is supposed to come in. The elders of our society are supposed to pull back on the reins of the young, disciplining them in the ways of the past because the lessons they’ve already learned has shown us that rocking the boat unnecessarily is dangerous and stupid. Many of the “new” ideas have already been tried, and going back to revisit them is simply a waste of time and effort and sometimes lives. We have guides to the future if we can just learn to listen to them.
Unfortunately, the elders of our time have refused to put their foots down, choosing instead to pass the torch before the next generation is ready to take it. They have retired early, seeking the easy life by allowing their children to run free with little or no supervision. The wise among us have stepped out, leaving the idealistic and undisciplined and untested to hold the reins and take us wherever they want to go. With such inept control, the horse will wander wherever it chooses, free from the skilled hands of someone who knows better.
The reality is that new ideas are great and all, but you really do have to live a little before you can really have something to say that actually matters. You have to try things out and learn to fail properly, figuring out along the way what works and what doesn’t. It requires learning to be patient and seeing an issue from all sides before leaping forward into the unknown. This comes not only from living our lives, but learning from the lives of those who came before. It is a gift given to us from the previous generations, learning from both their successes and failures. As the saying goes: “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it”.
This message will always fall on deaf ears when it comes to the young. They are full of energy and inspiration and a drive to change things to fit their image of the world. It is on those of us who have lived a while to pull them back, calming them down and getting them to look at the world properly. It’s great to think outside the box, but before you can really do that you need to understand the box. You need to know what in the box is good and what is bad, why they are good or bad, and which of the bad things you can reasonably change. It is only then that you can start really starting to make a positive difference.
The problem is that it can take a lifetime to learn enough about the box to start making a change, and the young simply won’t wait. This is why it is up to those who know better to stop putting up with the impatience of youth and start pulling back on those reins. The chaos only continues as long as the wise among us allow it to. We need to stop being lazy and start speaking out against the clearly bad ideas that our youth is coming up with. We also need to start speaking out against those elders who never had the benefit of being guided by the wise and are continuing to push bad philosophies.
What do you think about the wisdom of those who came before? Do they have lessons we can learn, or should we go our own way? Sometimes new isn’t always better, and learning from the past is an important part of moving into the future. It is up to those who came before to temper the youth so we can find the right balance between what is new and what is good for us.
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