As an older man, I don’t have a great need for spontaneity. Life is perfectly capable of surprising me without needing me to go seek out a fun surprise or two. I am an older man now that I am 40. For some who are older than 70, I may still be thought of as a young man, but for most, I am an older man. Through most of human history, 40 was an age where retirement from public life was nigh, and days of battle and conquest were finished. A man should have been prepared to tend his garden, write his memoirs, and if he was especially blessed, bounce his grandkids on his knees.
Things are different in this time and place. You can still become a father in your teens and a grandfather when you reach your late thirties, but it doesn’t happen nearly as often. You might spend all of your twenties trying to start a career or get a PhD, and all of your 40s trying to gain enough financial security to start a family. You could get married in your late thirties, have your first children in your early forties, and retire when you are close to 80. Some people never retire, and some people still die when they are relatively young. Our physical selves haven’t kept up with our cultural selves, which really want to be immortal. Wanting to be immortal has always been a peculiar trait of humans, but now we can actually see the possibility of it more clearly.
As a younger man, I was told that in order to be cool and among those who were relEt and authentic, I needed to abandon the pleasure I took in getting up early in the morning, forsake my keen sense of needing to be slightly early and never late to meetings, fall in love with rock n’ roll instead of enjoy classical music, curse and swear and drink a lot, and generally behave like I didn’t care about what anyone thought while caring intensely and deeply about the opinions of others at all times. I needed to know the names of all of the popular culture icons, see all of the movies that were Oscar-worthy when they were in the theaters, and travel a lot. I needed to be spontaneous and willing to just go with the flow, and be laid back, and frequently say, “no worries, it’s all good…” when anyone presumed to have offended me. I needed to never judge others for their lifestyle choices because judging someone was the worst thing I could do. I needed to participate in any and all of the latest fads like paddleboarding and using Twitter and answering foolish quizzes on Facebook, but know when some fad like playing Farmville was just not cool at all. I needed to have a strong sense of when to seek out unusual and exotic restaurants, bands, beers, coffee shops, etc.–if I discovered something too soon before all of the cool kids did then it didn’t matter, but if I waited too long they would have moved on and been dismissive of the pleasure I took in some once-hip restaurant that was now passe and for those uncool gentrifying masses of which they, the cool kids, were most definitely not. I needed to have all of my political and religious opinions mostly be liberal and agnostic or even atheist, but never be too political or too religious about anything, except when it was especially important and righteous for everyone to be doing it. I needed to have been to Burning Man back before it was known by the masses which means before I had heard of it, and yet there were people who heard of it after I did who somehow managed to make their discovery of it a lot more cool than my own discovery of it. At one time using online dating services was pathetic and Googling people was creepy and taking a selfie of yourself somewhere was also pathetic because it meant you had no friends to take your picture, but then everyone started dating via apps and online services, and everyone Googled each other and everyone took selfies…etc.
I hope that if you are a student of my culture who is living in a distant time and place where most of this technology and utterly pretentious bullshit has been abandoned that you will forgive me for having tried at various times in my twenties and thirties to participate in some of this, before I finally gave up in utter realization of how uncool I was. I am not a pretty man, not even a ruggedly handsome one. I am not a man who has ever been able to keep up with fashion, fads, trends, and everything else required for me to be relEt and conversant in my culture. I love mornings, I am a morning person. I can’t stand drinking to excess, although I still do sometimes when I am really depressed and the wife and child are out of town and I temporarily forget how sick I will feel all of the next day. I mostly can’t stand rock music–even the older stuff that I used to appreciate. I think it’s all mostly noise, and not very interesting noise, either. I hate being late to meetings and don’t like it when people breeze in late and try to laugh off their own tardiness as if they are special people who get to be late. I don’t get awed or impressed by charismatic people. I think Steve Jobs was mostly a smoke and mirrors act and good at fooling a lot of gullible people who liked being fooled by men like Steve Jobs. The same goes for Obama, and all of the other politicians who have fooled and impressed people. Human beings in general are poor models for behavior and highly unworthy of worship and attention. The ones we hold up in such high regard are mostly pretty dull and rather lucky for having been in the right time and place during some point in their lives.
I hope that one day most of the human race will cease in its need to glorify and deify other human beings. We still do it today, though we might not explicitly deify our idols. Are some of the humans we hold in high regard special and especially talented? Of course, but there are billions more special and equally wonderful human beings who will never be remembered for anything on this earthly plane.
Is humanity worth saving? The humanity I see down at the homeless mission at my church is worth saving. The children are worth saving. Those who suffer and are weak. The aged and the infirm. Those of us who are strong and independent should probably be left to sink or swim of our own accord when the flames come to lick the earth, and of course being a strong swimmer won’t do you much good when you are in the middle of a fire. Most human beings are weak and pathetic at their cores. God sees right through all of us. The worst of us are the ones who front the most. Donald Trump is among the worst of these. His soul is in such a wretched state that it is hard to imagine how such a corrupted and corruptible man will be redeemed, but maybe God has a plan for Donald Trump. If Trump ends up being the worst manifestation of everything that he has demonstrated himself to be thus far, then our civilization is over. I suppose as a good Christian I should be praying for God to work with Trump’s heart and turn him into the kind of man who sees how much suffering there is in the world, but I don’t know that I can call myself a good Christian yet. I am still a pretty awful Christian most of the time.
I do what I can to help others, but at the end of the day, I am still mostly self-absorbed and self-obsessed, and need people like my wife and son to pull me out of myself. Do I need Jesus’ help more than Trump does? I don’t know. I’m not running the country, but Calvin would probably say that without Jesus, Donald Trump and me aren’t that much different from each other in our states of total depravity.
As an older man, I tend to respect order and clean, straight lines, timetables that are met, and top-down decisions that are carefully followed through by the leaders that make the decisions. I wouldn’t say I love authority so much as I love consistency and predictability. At twenty I might not have survived the Army’s rigid systems of order, but at 40 I believe I would do very well with the Army telling me what to do, except I am now too old to join the Army and probably physically unfit to be of much use to the Army except as a chaplain. Perhaps this is why I don’t like Trump very much. I am much more conservative than I was ten years ago, but I can’t stand conservatives or liberals who are utterly inconsistent with what they say they are going to do from one minute to the next. Hillary would have made a much more predictable president than Trump will, though I can’t say as I was ever very thrilled about her.