Maginot Lines


Last week, Samuel Bauer wrote an essay about how he helped his Mom prepare to go on a date. His story got me thinking about intergenerational advice, both in the home and beyond.

As we grow older, we often draw Maginot Lines 5-10 years above and below our own chronological age. We only spend time with or take advice from people who are in our age range. This practice causes a severe, but unbeknownst to us, condition of  temporal insularity.  This insularity results from having meaningful interactions with only a small subset of humanity.  This subset is representative of one particular generation but excludes or ignores other people.

Tom Brokaw taught us about The  Greatest Generation.  The Baby Boomers were once radical but now are described as self-absorbed and aging. Gen Xers were once apathetic and now cannot stand the Gen Yers. These descriptions are such stereotypes. They are more generalizations than generational and we only affirm them when we choose to interact primarily with people of our own ilk.

Millions of dollars has been spent on research to  better identify and market to specific generalizations. While I understand the pragmatic, electoral, and economic utility of this analysis,  I think it is time to move beyond generational analysis in our own everyday practices.  Why not cross over generational Maginot Lines every now and then?

Traditional familial and organizational  hierarchies have reinforced the belief that chronological age is determinate of wisdom and appropriate learning practices.   These beliefs inscribe a particular age for wisdom and inhibits the potential for both private and public intergenerational relationships.

Instead of  providing further reinforcements to your generational Maginot Lines, why not try being more intergenerational in your everyday life?  In the next week, whatever your chronological age or generation, push yourself to learn from someone more than a decade younger or older than you.

1 Comment

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One response to “Maginot Lines

  1. peter lynch

    i have long considered that teachers have an enormous advantage over other adults. we can communicate with other people’s kids (mostly) without having to deal with the issues that can so polarize familial relations. i owe my former students so much, a willingness to put aside the posing of adulthood probably chief among them, along with the debt i feel to their continued loyalty. on the other hand, especially in the monastery, i dealt with elderly men who thought differently than i but with whom i forged several relationships of great respect and even tenderness. part of the answer, i think, is to flee the conventional workplace.

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