Imagine this scenario. An older person sees a teen walk by and is shocked at how outrageous the teen is. Maybe the teen is dressed ludicrously, behaving “rudely”, or listening to “vulgar” music. Either way, the older person sees this as a degeneration of the way things were. Why in this older person’s day…
Chances are this older person isn’t happy with current music, trends, social mores, etc… Chances are, this person isn’t too happy in general and feels out of step with the world.
I’ve been there, and in some ways still am there. Yet I’m starting to see the fallacy for what it is.
The assumption that things were better in my day assumes that I was independent of the mores and fashions of the time. It assumes that I stood back and objectively chose what to adopt and that my tastes were a stable thing, free of any conditioning. In short, it assumes a stable, independent entity that is “me” (the latter implied by the fact that I cling to this past, reject this now and dread the future).
Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.
What really went on was that there was a formative period in my life, and during this period, I uncritically swallowed whatever was shoved down my throat. This included a whole host of stupid, vapid things that were far more idiotic than the things I see now. Yet, at the time, they were new and fresh to me, I was impressionable, and I was in the right social circles to accept these things.
In fact, it goes deeper. My memory of that time is a product of this time, for I am a product of the now. Did things really happen as I remember, or is my memory itself conditioned by this rejection of the now? After all, the very recollection of the past was itself triggered by what’s happening now; how deep does this go?
It’s hard to confront this, because in doing so, the same fundamental lie is put to my identity. I realize that I’m not an independent entity standing outside the current of time. I’m every bit a product of the time as the fashions, just as I’m a product of the now. The world isn’t changing around me and alienating me; I’m part of the change and this perception of the change is itself part of the change. To witness the “world” changing assumes a stable standpoint that remains fixed and can gauge the change — but this very perspective is also changing.
To resist this is another way of clinging to the self, and the pain that is caused by this “degenerating world” is the pain of the self. However, like so much pain caused by the self, it hides behind proxies.
Things change, and I am a part of this change. As long as I stop resisting this truth life will be smoother and happier. See, I can’t resist this flow. Change will flow and I will flow with it. The only question is if I’ll be kicking and screaming while I’m flowing, or simply relax and go with the current, and perhaps enjoy some sights along the way.