Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lesson #21: Don't Condemn What You Don't Understand

One of the main symptoms of getting older is the tendency to judge and condemn new forms of expression without taking the time to understand it first.  It is almost innate as we age to reduce complex thinking, and to want to put people and things into simple categories that were established in the past.  I too can't help but listen to pop music today and think about previous eras that songs resemble.  The difference is, I have learned that if I put something down without understanding it first, I am being closed, limited, and depriving myself of learning something new.

There has always been a perception of a cultural divide between age spans in popular forms of entertainment.  From the movies "Rebel Without A Cause," to "The Graduate," to Will Smith's, "Parents Just Don't Understand," there has been a line drawn in the generational sand that has dictated, "misunderstood youth here...critical old people there."

In real life, I have found it to be much more complex.  The older people in my family were mostly open minded, curious, and interested in learning about the different music and fashion trends I was following as a teenager.  They may not have enjoyed them, but they took the time to understood why I enjoyed them.  I learned from my grandparents, as well as my Aunt Florrie, that later years can be a time when one learns new skills, embraces life, and asks questions about things one doesn't know instead of rushing to snap judgments. 

So now, when I am tempted to put a younger person into an established category in my head, as I originally did with the Lady Gaga phenomenon, I check myself.  Do I know what this person is trying to express?  Is there something that I can learn? If I don't understand it, can I ask someone who does? Is this person creating something that can enhance and improve my experience in some way?

At any chronological age we can decide to shut our minds and hearts down to new forms of creative statements, as the prototypical "old person" does in the aforementioned movies and videos.  But doing so shuts out a plethora of potential joy, fun, and learning.  I am starting my forties finding myself more fascinated than ever by artistic expressions of younger people throughout New York City in political and social contexts.   If I keep an open outlook, then aging becomes an exciting creative adventure of its own!

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, grief and loss, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at Shouldless@gmail.com

1 comment:

Raymond said...

I agree that judgement and wisdom are not one in the same,and do not have to reflect our age.