Tag: experience

The Boomers and Their Greatest Weapon: Experience

By Dylan Anders | @realdylananders

We libertarian youngsters have never heard the end of it from parents and grandparents regarding our views. Of course, this does not apply to all of them, as each individual has a different mind. However, there are clear attitudes that majorities of generations hold. After ranting over police misconduct and tax law, it becomes apparent that many Boomers (which, for the sake of brevity, will be the term for those belonging to the group born between 1945 and 1965 affected by a dogmatic world-view) are not interested in changing their mind. At least, they won’t allow those younger than them to do so, the stereotype suggests. Our well-articulated arguments on the rights of man pales in comparison to the ‘superior’ experience Boomers hold. Simply nothing can refute a Boomer’s anecdote.

Some of the so-called experience that Boomers swear by is elementary:

The police system cannot be corrupt because I wasn’t beaten after being pulled over for speeding. I complied… and dutifully paid $300 for going 10 over!

…and the ever-so popular:

We have to pay the government our taxes, because who else will build the roads?

Sure, there may be some embellishment in the rhetoric, but many Boomers have uttered words quite similar to these.

We lack the worldly experience that would otherwise immediately credit the Boomer. Thus, our words, no matter how well thought out, are worth nothing to many of them. We must concede that experience is a valuable asset in the quest to find truth and reasoning. But, what the Boomer gets wrong is the sheer fact that right and wrong are constant and objective, and no amount of experience can change that to fit the Boomer’s mindset. Sure, the Boomer may be right, as we can, too. The longer life the Boomer has lived, though, is not sufficient evidence to determine what is right.

With age comes experience, but experience does not inherently bring reason. Even the same experience can breed different interpretations.

Where, though, does this mindset come from? Sociologist David Finkelhor coined the term as juvenoia: “an exaggerated fear about the influence of social change on children and youth.” The term quite literally comes from the words ‘juvenile’ and ‘paranoia.’ It has been here for a long time. Even Socrates complained much like how the Boomer does today—children nowadays have “contempt for authority” and “contradict their parents.” Juvenoia is natural. As a newer, younger generation experiences a change in technology or mindset, the older generation feels a moral heightening over the youth in a sort of ageist manner. As George Orwell says, “every generation imagines itself to be…wiser than the one that comes after it.”

Once we look at Boomer influence in government, their argument of experience really begins to sound like a broken record.

The most intriguing aspect of the Boomer’s mindset is their hypocrisy. They would be justified in criticizing our generation, if their own had not utterly poisoned the economy, as well as our liberties. Boomers seem to rarely criticize their coevals in office. Yet, they are the ones that destroyed the housing and education markets, gave newborns an inheritance of debt, bred the largest Ponzi scheme ever seen, and slaughtered the Bill of Rights.

Clearly, we must ask: what justification do Boomers have to blindly mock the new ideas of the youth? Only those lost in dogmatism would avoid the debate for reason with young minds.

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Are You Getting Enough Awe in Your Experiential Diet?

Craig Axford | United States

It is good that we have acquired so much knowledge of ourselves and our environment. Though there is still an immeasurable chasm standing between what we currently understand and all there is to know, we have come a long way.

But it is a tight rope we walk. Between learning about a thing and experiencing it there is a fine line. Perhaps the ideal is the perfect blend of artist and scientist; a fifty-fifty split right down the middle between understanding the physical mechanics of the phenomenon being observed and the childlike wonder evoked naturally by the encounter. I prefer to think it’s the tension between these two ways of being in the world that’s critical to living life to its fullest.

When I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
Walt Whitman

Awe lies at the intersection between understanding and bewilderment. It is neither and it is both. Overcome at once by immensity, power, mortality and beauty, the reality of our insignificance and lack of anything more than the slightest influence upon the universe becomes impossible to ignore. There is a kind of grasp of the real situation that comes with awe that is at once true and immeasurable. To understand geology and paleontology as you sit upon the rim of a cliff that has been hundreds of millions of years in the making —  that you are in fact resting upon the uplifted floor of an ancient seabed — adds character and depth to the experience. Deep time is thereby added to the present picture as your sense of connection expands beyond contemporary life to creatures long since extinct.

Though still understudied, there is an emerging science of awe. This research does not presume to reduce the experience to its essence (a futile exercise if ever there was one). Rather it seeks to describe the effects the experience has upon us. It turns out, as one might expect, that awe is pretty darn good for us.

For one thing it alters our sense of time, effectively slowing things down and bringing us into the present moment. Experiencing awe also increases empathy and altruism by enhancing our sense of interconnectedness.

“Awe doesn’t just inspire ethical behavior. Recent studies suggest that experiencing awe may boost your immune system and make you feel more creative, too. It can even make you feel that you have more time to get things done.” ~ Smithsonian Magazine, August 6, 2015

Unfortunately we have generally fallen out of the habit of seeking out or opening ourselves to experiences of awe. Our smartphones have conditioned us to look down at the screen rather than up at the heavens. Children do not play outside nearly as often as they did just a generation or two ago, while many of their parents spend much of their waking hours working in climate controlled offices. Outdoor time on the weekend, at least during the summer months, often involves yard work rather than more inspiring pursuits.

Of course there is never a guarantee awe will be the result if we decide to ignore the lawn and go for a hike into the nearest mountain range instead. But awe is far more likely to pay us a visit if we’re open to the experience in the first place, and we too rarely are these days.

Photo by Spring Fed Images on Unsplash

The psychologist Paul Pearsall, perhaps growing weary of patients coming to him in search of closure, coined the phrase “openture” to describe an attitude that is perhaps necessary for increasing our chances of awe. Oliver Burkeman, writing for The Guardian, described Pearsall’s neologism this way: “a mindset of actively welcoming awe, of being committed to fully experiencing everything that can be experienced, not just life’s good bits.”

We’re a rather impatient and hedonic culture. We grow restless if required to stand in line for a few minutes, and, as one recent study revealed, we are more likely to choose electric shocks than sitting alone with our thoughts for very long. Perhaps a little awe would put us on the road to placing things back into something closer to the proper perspective. It’s hard to take oneself too seriously when confronted with the fact that an atom is to us what we are to the universe, if that much.

With spring approaching the opportunities for experiencing awe will, as they do every year, literally be bursting from the ground. So do yourself a favor; take a walk in the forest, climb a nearby hill or mountain to take in the view, or visit the desert and watch how even in the harshest environments life can do beautiful things with the scarce resources. Practice a little openture as you go. There are never any guarantees, of course, but awe may just surprise you if you do.

Cover Photo

by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Other recent stories by Craig Axford: Objectivity vs. Subjectivity: An Incongruity That Isn’t Really & Getting There

Follow Craig on Twitter or read him at Medium.com