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My birthday is next month. I’m not telling you this because I’m fishing for your birthday wishes, though I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to them!

That said, what is on my mind more is this…

When I look around at the old folks like me, I see a subset of people who are becoming more rigid in their way. They seem alienated from the world, as though they do not accept or want a part of today’s world.

I have to be honest: Few of us can keep up with the music or the fashion or the celebrities. I long ago stopped trying, but what I am observing seems to run much deeper. It is as though, at a certain point, some stop relating. Some stop placing any weight on the experiences and the voices of today. Some seem to be trapped in a Twilight Zone. The world has moved on, but some among us are tethered to the old world, claiming that the new world does not make sense.

I must admit that I have, at times, scratched my head in wonder, feeling totally disconnected and foreign from the challenges, the politics, and the guiding philosophies or my younger friends and acquaintances.

But I think this: I think that when we shake our heads and claim to not understand, we risk being deafened. We risk being unable and unwilling to listen. We risk becoming so tethered to the past that we cannot live in the future. Our entire context becomes that of a world that no longer exists.

It is important for me to remember that this is not true: The world has not ceased to make sense. What is true is this: If we have not traveled alongside it, we no longer make sense in this world.

It is easy to roll our eyes, to stop caring, to think the younger generations are petty and their complaints are trivial, but I try to remember this: People are acting perfectly within their paradigms and their context of the world. They are almost always acting in alignment with what makes sense to them.

My job, when I do not understand, is to ask questions and to listen. I like to think of myself as a “fellow traveler.” Your world might be foreign to me, but I am here, with my eyes and my ears open, ready to experience what you have to offer—some new tradition or culture that I may or may not fall in love with, but one way or another, will keep me present in today’s world, growing and learning from the newness. This is what I know to be true: What one person sees as wise might not be my cup of tea, but I will be a more interesting and interested person if I trust that you know what is best for you.

And here is what I would urge for those looking upon the old and rickety: It is a two-way street. Consider that sometimes old wisdom works for new realities. Just as I have an obligation to consider and perhaps even embrace the new, those of you who are 30 and 40 years younger than me will be more interesting and interested people if you listen for old wisdom that just might apply to this new world.

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