Sunday, February 12, 2012

the senility of the old, the senility of the young

It is easy to overlook the obvious and in fact there is probably no high-ground virtue in remembering it, but still those who are rhapsodized as 'wise' counsel others to "stop and smell the roses" -- pay attention to the obvious.

One of the obvious pastimes in today's world is the use of the cell phone. These gadgets, as far as I can see, are a lot more than phones. Owners can send text messages to each other. They can consult what are called "social networks" like Facebook and Twitter. They can engage with the Internet. They can create and send photos. And, if you judge by the number of people walking down Main Street paying rapt attention to something held in a hand, they have found a friend without whom they would be bereft.

Old folks may despair of the latest gadgetry, but that's partly based on and advancing case of their own laziness and senility.

And it was "senility" that popped up in my mind this morning as a fine descriptor. Roughly, the word "senile" is defined as " mentally or physically infirm with age." The definition does not say what age. It just notes infirmity that may accord with age. Hence, in my mind, anyone at any age may be described as "senile." The senility of the old. And, when it comes to cell phone use, the senility of the young. Senility is not a matter of age; it is a matter of infirmity.

And of what does infirmity consist? It consists of inability. Among the old, it may be an inability to walk, inability to remember, inability to leap tall buildings at a single bound. And among the young, if cell phones are any indicator, it is the inability to see that what is promoted as a means of social connection is in fact a means of driving people apart ... away from the very connection that is asserted.

This is not intended as some wily or cranky or jealousy-strewn criticism of the young ... the kind of bullshit that allows the infirm elderly to take delight in lines like, "youth is wasted on the young." It is to suggest that senility, at any age, is an unwillingness or inability to really investigate anything ... to give a whole-hearted love to any topic or person, to be overcome with delight or despair in the far reaches of one living topic or another. Imagining, for example, that 141-word text messages actually constitute a social connection ... well, it's not evil, but it can be profoundly stupid. And such habits, if taken seriously and without reflection, can lead further and further from that within that longs for wholeness and peace.

On the one hand, there is nothing really wrong with this obvious trend -- the hour upon hour of consulting this gizmo in the palm of the hand. But on the other hand, to the extent that it leads away from an in-depth look at something -- at anything that wins your heart and soul -- it has a senile, infirm feel to it.

There is something healthy in this life about loving something ... of being, as the French might say, "fou" for a particular person or topic. In this crazed and perhaps crazy realm, all thought of holding back or seeing things another way ... forgetaboutit! Love is blind and it is a good thing to find something worth being blind for ... to fall in love, to go the distance so that ... you can fall out of love ... know at least one thing from muzzle to butt plate, to go the course that is miles longer than a simple bias or opinion or 141-word text.

Love it! Hold on tight-tighter-tightest! Bore your friends with it! But stay the course until what is held tight-tighter-tightest simply lets go. Don't let it go ... don't push the river ... and let it let you go. Let it become obvious and easy, a matter that can be frivolous or serious as you choose. Become senile in its realm because, although the senile may feign contentment in Shakespeare's "'tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all," you can know from experience that there never was anything to hold or lose ... know it and be content.

Start with senility ... and then get smart. Once you get smart, sending text messages and relying on a hand-held device is not quite so stupid.

Life is not a bunch of self-serving short-hand. On the other hand, it is not a bunch of self-serving long-hand either. Life is just obvious, don't you think?

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