What are we planting?
“I don’t care if you don’t like it! Eat it anyways.” It wasn’t said in a mean tone but one of finality, you ate what was put in front of you or you went without. It wasn’t always like that, but that was a standard rule in our home growing up. Recent insights into my own construction, and problems that arise from them, has found me currently inspecting my childhood. Why my childhood? Well even as my years tick over to the senior citizen side, I have found many core beliefs founded in my childhood to form current and compounded problems. As I was discussing this with my brother, he noted his own viewpoint that some of those childhood events and problematic outcomes could have been more generational than what is outwardly acknowledged. In digging around my thoughts on that facet of life, I saw the patterns, the social climate, the cultures and their clashes; Finding I agreed that it wasn’t all on my Mother and Father, or family for that sake, as to why I held core beliefs that were so destructive throughout my life. As I have found insights into myself over the years it has helped me to understand the outer world much better, and this was no different. The patterns that I started seeing applied not only to my life, and my generation. But it also helped me see the difficulties that generations before, and after, have had in dealing with growing up, and the planting of their own core beliefs.
It was just another opinion piece, one that I really didn’t agree with. When I looked at the bio of the author the first thing I noticed was she was the author of a book with “Ok Boomer” in the title. In the not so recent past, I would have told you that that phrase infuriates me, and it still doesn’t sit too well on my sensibilities. Yet, in understanding my own childhood, and the various social and cultural influences and peer pressures, that phrase looks different to my thinking now. Disrespectful, smart-assed, ageist, ignorant, rude, and stupid, these kids didn’t know what the hell they were talking about! When I took that last part of my statement apart, I realized how hypocritical the whole thing was. I was guilty of those very things in everything I said after… But those were coming from my core beliefs, my own world experiences, my own pile of life. So, what do you expect from a later generation when the foundation of our indignations come from the very same fabric? Generations don’t get to decide what comes before them, what fashion rules to follow, what attitudes to have, those are created as they go along with the pile of culture and the neuroses caused by it that’s left over. When I was looking at my childhood, the generational differences, and the way it all unfolded, I consider myself in a lucky position in that formula. My parents were born and raised during the depression era, my father a WWII veteran, while my mother a character from the Great Gatsby. Their nine children, my brothers and sisters, could be called a perfect graph example. The first half of my life was firmly planted in the past to fundamentals handed down from a different time, the analog, the artisan, and traditional. The second half has been spent learning a different engagement, the sense of community changing and the digitalization of everyone and everything. In looking back at the societal influences that left my core beliefs skewed a bit to say the least; I wondered what kind of future neuroses and problematic societal issues await us from unseen societal and generational forces? With the world of anti-depressant medicines being taken at a historic pace today, what shaped the past? What is undermining us today? What are we planting?
The ties that Blind
Just as much as the whole usage of the phrase “Ok boomer” is horrific to my sensibilities, so is the often used phrase, “Back in my day,” or some similar refrain. They both disrespect time itself, they disrespect change, one disrespects the past, and the other disrespects the present, and both are used to avoid the issues at hand. As I was looking into my past I saw the various influences as they were then, how they shaped some core beliefs that need changing, need cleaning off, need to be thrown out. We all change, yet somehow during this whole time, I am amazed at what is still left hanging around, and am reminded with this that we don’t always change the way we think we do. I can see the connections to my shaped idealisms and perfectionisms in the John Wayne standard of the times. The constructs of the toxic masculinity spoken of today, the different attitudes of keeping it to yourself, pushing yourself, and where the list of ingredients for success originated. In seeing those things that shaped my core beliefs it lit the pathways to seeing other generational and cultural forces that could apply to others in their lives too. It helps me understand the societal need to not talk about your problems, your needs, or your failures back in my parents day. Even today that mindset permeates society in many corners, even as others are reaching in the opposite direction of finding solace in sharing the outsized needs and solutions found in their various communities. I could see the cultural influences and social mores of my parents shaping how the next generation was treated. The need to push the standards that they held in their core beliefs went into teaching their children a heavy work ethic, and the need to be a “company man.” The necessity to be frugal and save, to build and take care of what you had. It was a standard that grips the basics of tangible survival, and it encapsulated the majority of their times. The shaping of emotional health though was as rudimentary as men don’t cry, thicken the skin in any manner available, and don’t embarrass your parents. Just like anyone though, as they aged they understood the world a little differently, and the expression of family values can be tracked quite nicely through the years in our family.
Of course trying to capture that sense of values and beliefs being formed after mine, in those younger, is much more a list of widening fearful constructs of thought more than anything else. Just with technology alone, I wonder what would have happened to any of the older generations if they had a digital kind of world to escape to? If the rules of information and popular culture dominated their every step all the way into their very bedrooms? Like I said, the core beliefs and foundational teachings that came after me is only a guess at best, but it is still telling. What stuck me most about the whole examination, from my parents time to today, is the change in the sense of community, of common good, and how the state of individualism is actually guiding us back to those old basics that Mom and Dad always tried to instill in us. Maybe this challenge to our norms, being the worldwide life altering event that it is, will teach us once more what it means to sacrifice for the common good? To ensure your neighbors are well and fed, to focus our radically different digital humanity back onto the human element, or a more natural one? Just like the wars and financial disasters of the past demanded our behaviors to support the common good, the common life, the common person; maybe these times are teaching us a painful lesson on the importance of community, health, and that popular good. Nobody was perfect back in my parents time, but the point was, they tried. They tried so well that they succeeded in creating a wealth of culture and success that is now engulfed in change within a dearth of affluency, where community is seen more and more as a collection of strangers. Which leaves behind those automatic thinking processes that we don’t often look for, or cannot see. The ties that blind.
I was checking out a clock on a short video the other day. It was a different kind of clock that used vertical slats with numbers on them that represented each number on the time display. They moved up and down, and lit up when they were in on the display line. It reminded me of the story of us, the way time really feels passing by. While it was the same time for everyone, everyone was at their own level, going up or down, changing from minute mode to an hourly one or vice versa. That is a good example of being able to stay in the moment and see the connectiveness in everything. Acknowledging how my own core beliefs, my prejudices, my perceptions were formed in those early years is opening up acceptance avenues to understanding the manner in which others formed theirs. Seeing that this is not an area that we always dip back into to manage and clean house, I can see where the unconscious, and automatic thinking can steer those old misplaced beliefs into full blown, but self unaware, fully breathing parts of of us. The other part of acknowledging all of this is understanding how the irony of human thinking goes into it all as well. That whole human element of trying not to think of something will lead you to think of it more. That in thinking about the positive makes you ruminate about the negative to gauge how positive you are being. There is more to this than those simple examples, but that is the main premise. The very things that dictated much of the core beliefs in my childhood were passed along through popular culture, and the newly found idiot box as my father so often called it. It was the internet of its time, and just as today, parents found a way to engage their children for hours on end, found the learning ability it carried, and went on to ignore the plus negative effects. All of that seems awfully familiar as generational similarities stick out in my thinking. The same influences and more are being parlayed on the future minds of generations in recent decades. The same stigmas about mental health persist today as they did in my youth. The same social build of media and entertainment in many cases, carving out deeper inroads in to consciousness than those of family and community. The new evolution of persuasive personalities being promoted and built, by media, by entertainment, by comments, by the numbers, has left a culture that is tirelessly doom-scrolling, and looking through the inputs for their next indignation. We do this to ourselves and in the big picture window of life, it very much looks like ants in an ant farm.
In my youth the state of child psychology was still undergoing its growing pains, the stigmas were often too stuck to let go of. As the years have gone by, our understandings of how that childhood, and early developmental years shape our futures has grown exponentially. It is worth a note in the big picture window to understand that when WWII started the world had a little over a billion inhabitants. When in my youth of the late sixties and early seventies, there were about four billion inhabitants. We now sit at about eight billion roughly, and the numbers are projected to reach about nine and a half billion before tapering off again. Those numbers say a lot of things, they speak of success, as well as many concerns. Scientists from numerous fields of study are at this moment trying to figure out how this pandemic is effecting the mental health of our still developing youth. In that effort the need to understand the generational inputs and throughputs that developed from them is equally important. That is where the focus on experiences and evidence from past generations can help shape a better future for those very same children, and developing youth. The problems we share today as a culture and society do not have to be handed down incessantly to the next brand of humans. Some of the best intentions have the worst consequences, and we are seeing the results compounded instead of alleviated as time marches on. This contemporary individualism though is reminding us of the truths found out along the way that folks like my parents tried to instill. So, in telling our stories, reaching out to generations with that sense of learning from the past instead of being taught by it, we can better weather the storm when society hardens and culture shocks.
Sure, it was a challenge to stop being offended by the blatant disrespect being delivered by an “OK Boomer” kind of statement. Even though I am not one myself, the sentiment was still felt. I was still a part of the generations that was targeted for insubordination, indignation, and outright anger, for something I had little control over, little weight to change the societal fabric of. The times were different, people didn’t look to the past because that was over with, better to be forgotten than dealt with. When looking at the core beliefs and their foothold in my own psyche, it was there that the whole “time heals all wounds” bit doesn’t hold too much water. Those things we thought we were forgetting were actually just growing mold, changing my mind into something else inside, and dictating my behaviors on the outside. The need to tend to our crops, our changing human evolution, is inherently necessary in the long run, and even in the short term. The more we understand what we are planting, and where those seeds of culture and society come from, and go to, is indeed our biggest task at hand. It is not acceptable to any generation, past, present, or future, that we do not endeavor to better ourselves and better our abilities to live in peace with each other, and share the planet responsibly in the process. To take on the past, to honestly look for our detractions is not what we are taught, nor prepared to do, but it must be done, it must start somewhere. The growing gaps of societal fabric cannot be held together with threads of understanding, but with a weave we have allowed to grow too far apart. We ultimately have a responsibility to uphold, and finding those weaving abilities again is just a part of it, and coming this core belief comprehension is just a small part of that.
We got here because of things we believed in, and the actions we took because of those beliefs. In doing so we set in motion a compounding set of events and motions which cultivated other behaviors and beliefs. We have the evidence now that some of our best thinking of the past has had unintended consequences, that we harbor more than we outwardly accept in our belief systems, and our behavioral standards. There is an underlying societal equation that says the world, and thus life, will revert to a “normal,” or “same as before,” as society begins to operate without limits again. That is the trained reaction example that people have having been through so many traumas as a whole, as a society, and world. Out of balance, and out of whack, only for it to get back to normal again at a future date. It’s here that the learning from the past, or doomed to repeat it comes in. That is not what happened, there never really was a just like before. In looking out into that world, in order to glean a perspective, something to plan from, and with, it is a most difficult time. I discovered this by looking into my own beliefs, my own issues of self, and my own outlook. It has opened an insight onto that larger field out there that is being presented. As I have said before, the human mind uses most of its energies trying to make sense of the world. An individual’s sense of the world is highly dependent on patterns that occur in life, today those patterns have been largely interrupted and changed. Generations before me, and generations after me understand that times were different then. How they were different requires an understanding of the people, and not just the information gleaned from a history book, or website. More and more the experience of the past is looked upon as a scourge, poor decision makers, and destroyers of the world, while utilizing the same pattern of thought that got us here. If we are to change, if we are to fulfill our unspoken purpose, then it is a crucial that we break this cycle of ignoring the past while we look for solutions for our futures. Understanding our core beliefs is understanding our knowledge, and that in itself is change, is progress. If we can teach our adults to learn this about their past, the cycle could then begin to break, and we could cease planting those children of the scorn.