Friday Philosophy: Horton Hears a Boomer

I’m not sure when I became aware of the idea.  It’s certainly not original.  And it is so simple.

Life is not about becoming what one is destined to be.  It’s not even really about becoming who one is destined to be.  It’s about becoming who one wishes to be.

Or rather about becoming who one wishes to be while one is becoming someone even better, because there is surely never going to be a time when one reaches attains this particular vision.  At least I can’t see how that could ever be the case.

I remember growing up and being asked or (more probably) encouraged to be something.  Be an athlete.  Be a scientist.  Be a good boy.  Be a man.

It troubled me that so often I didn’t know how to do those things…and wasn’t really interested in learning how to be any of those.

Not that I am not a thing.  I am.  I’m a teacher.  But being a teacher also allows one to experience being a who.  Maybe when someone finds some thing that they enjoy doing, one can turn one’s attention towards the “Who?” question.  For me it was being a teacher.

Now I’m told I haven’t been teaching, but rather have been engaging in indoctrination.  What kind of a mind would think that?

For whatever reason  “Who?” was a hard question for me.  Always.  Still is…in some ways.

I remember trying to explain to a former girlfriend that it was impossible for me to explain in worlds who I was deep, deep, deep down inside…even to myself.  Part of it is that I may not have arrived there yet and part of it is that I haven’t yet located the words to describe what I see.  When she tried to force me to do so, it brought me to tears.

When I looked hard to discover who I am, I also saw who I have failed to be.

The thing about a human existence is that there are always other directions to look, new areas of oneself to be explored.  If the roof is leaking in one room, it is very tempting to go inhabit another.

If there was nothing else about my life I wanted to share with my daughter, it was that.

Be who you want to be, who you desire to be.

At the time I was myself rather unaware about the process one must go through to who that was.  I thought I knew, but it proved to be more complicated than that.

Does that mean I was a bad parent?  A bad adult?  A bad human being?  Just because I was born in 1948?

Damn.  If that was the case, what was the point of living this life?  What was the point of doing what I have done?  What was the point of being who I was?  And what was the point of becoming the person I have become.

I understand I’m supposed to think I have some sense of huge entitlement.  I’m not sure what I am supposed to think I am entitled to have, but I’m told it is there.

Alternate point of view:  I’ve spent my life trying to make sure my daughter is entitled to a better life than I was.

Is that something to be excoriated for?

I’ve always hoped that my daughter understood that having not much was probably going to be a state of my life forever…and that I was truly sorry that meant she would not be able to have much either.  I hoped that she would develop the same detachment from material things that I have.  But I always thought that was up to her to figure out for herself.  I was there to be a helping hand and a friendly ear.  Because of the third person always present, that wasn’t always possible.  But I hoped.

After I began transition, we got a chance to be adults together and have done so on too rare a schedule as the years have passed.  But I learned about her, both in those interactions and through what I have observed and heard second hand.  I’m proud of her.

She told me she grew up to be a taoist, just like me.  Since we never, ever talked about it in earlier that I can recall, I thought that was cool.  

And I’m told she is very much like me in many other ways.  It’s hard for me to judge.

I’m curious as to how treating my daughter like a human being and spending my life teaching young people how to learn makes me a bad person.  But I keep forgetting that I was born in 1948.

I’m sure that was my fault.  According to someone somewhere.

I’ve been told I helped ruin the world for the generations that have followed.  I think maybe it has something to do with the fact that I haven’t convinced other people my age to listen to this transsexual women and change their ways and instantly undo all the wrongs perpetrated by all the past generations and simultaneously prevent the spread of unmitigated greed that broke out in the Ronnie Raygun years.  Maybe it’s because the current mouthpiece-in-chief for those past generations and their minions was born in 1946.

Young people don’t understand the difference between 1946 and 1948.

Day and night, dude.  Someone who doesn’t understand that doesn’t know how absurd talking about Boomers as an entity is.

But rationality has so often been left far behind.

The Lure of the Gold


Shouldn’t entitlement

be an increasing function?

Should not our children

be entitled

to more freedom

liberty, joy

and happiness

than we were?

Shouldn’t their children

if they have any

deserve still more?

Or do you speak

of material things?

Do you look to me

as the reason

you don’t have more?

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–March 14, 2008


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    • Robyn on March 14, 2008 at 23:10

    …but I was constantly interrupted all day long and so didn’t figure out what it might be.

    If it seems disjointed, I’ll also plead “interruptions.”


    • frosti on March 14, 2008 at 23:33

    as far as I can see.  Many 80 and 70 year olds have a sense of being entitled to good health until age 100 with a minimum of medication, all costing $4 a month at Walmart or else you shouldn’t have to take it. I hear this daily.

    A generation is still made up of individuals, who have various outlooks, ideals, and opinions.  It is shallow to think everyone of a certain age is all matchy-matchy.

    Our parents threw cigarettes out the window as well as other trash without much thought.  We recycle everything we can, though we could go further if we made compost, I suppose.  My husband, a boomer, acts like a depression baby, conserving everything, including money.  I don’t think labels work.

    I do regret the outsourcing of good jobs and the greed of corporations, but in this,  many generations have been victimized together. I do worry that my son will not be able to live as well as I have, though he has had a good start.  I could go on and on, but I won’t.

    • frosti on March 14, 2008 at 23:55

    that I believe they never thought we would run out of anything.  I am thinking of the stories of Grampa Serven, who said one could walk across the Columbia River on the backs of salmon, or of the huge redwoods that were carved so you could drive a car through the trunk, under the arch.

    One thing seems clear. We have not yet run out of rain.  But the climate seems more like northern California.  This year, there will be no legal fishing for salmon in the spring from Oregon to Mexico, it is projected.  The salmon are not numerous enough.

    Clearly, there have been many moves that are ill-advised, such as paving over good farmland, building dams in some cases, and there are many crimes of omission, such as not building light rail as an alternative to I-5 in Seattle.  I could go on and on, but I won’t.

    • Robyn on March 15, 2008 at 00:33

    I’ll be in and out.  Our student boarder is an anthropology major at Montclair State and her Anthro Club is leaving for New Orleans tomorrow to go work with Habitat for Humanity over spring break.

  1. Erice Roth, in the movie Forrest Gump:

    Lieutenant Daniel Taylor: Did you hear what I said? You cheated me. I had a destiny. I was supposed to die in the field! With honor! That was my destiny! And you cheated me out of it! You understand what I’m saying, Gump? This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not to me. I had a destiny. I was Lieutenant Dan Taylor.

    Forrest Gump: You still are Lieutenant Dan.

    We are who we are. Thank you, Robyn.

    • Robyn on March 15, 2008 at 01:07

    I’ve debated with myself about adding this part.  I lost.

    My daughter had the good fortune to be a young lesbian who made friends, through an act of extraordinary good luck, with the daughter of a lesbian couple when she was in junior high school in Milwaukie, WI.  I never got a chance to meet them, but Jen got to spend a lot of time visiting her friend.  I hope it helped.  I know it was hard on her to have to move to Arkansas to finish high school, but what with my parents dying while I was in Milwaukie, I wasn’t going to get tenure at UWM.

    In Arkansas she fell under the guidance/protection of her lesbian theater arts teacher and speech coach.  I am eternally grateful again.  Jen’s mother was clueless until Jen came out her senior year.  As a student at UCA I had the honor of teacher her in a class.  She’s a smart kid, but a little lazy. 🙂

    While at UCA Jen was a founding member of the Lesbian and Gay Student Association (LGSA) at UCA.  I got assistance finding a therapist from their president before I came out and so relieved to receive what support I had from them when I did.  After it fell apart a couple years later, I helped start up another such group, mostly in Jen’s honor.

    By then Jen had moved to Lincoln to live with her partner, Julie.  Julie is a grad student/adjunct at UC-Santa Cruz, where they now live.

    I’m told Jen was an acknowledged dungeonmaster in D & D.  She is pretty much all about the gaming. 🙂  Although currently she is learning Japanese.  

    • Alma on March 15, 2008 at 02:31

    Its a different tone for you, as near to a rant as I’ve ever seen you do.  I think you should just cut loose more often.

    I don’t think people can ever be accuratly grouped by age, gender, or much of anything but interests, and even then they are not all the “same”.

    Pretty art work.  Vibrant greens, blues, and reds.  🙂

    OT- My son is Dungeon Master tonight.  Its very important to him and he has a terrible cough, and cold. 🙁  

    • kj on March 15, 2008 at 04:47

    stanza, Robyn…  🙂

    i think some of it is the whole “kill the father” “kill the mother” thing that…instead of being done on an interior basis, is done externally.  hence, the need for a target, a scapegoat, a something ‘other.’  

    for some reason, i just hear the Brando yelling “Stellllaaa!”  when that old meme rears its head.

    (if this makes no sense please ignore and scroll by)… 😉

    • frosti on March 15, 2008 at 04:47

    essays, when they seem to build on other essays.  I agree that civil rights should be emphasized and enhanced for each successive generation, if that was the real point of the essay.

  2. one of the teenage me’s favorite songs: CSNY’s Teach Your Children.

    And you, of tender years,

    Can’t know the fears that your elders grew by,

    So please help them with your youth,

    They seek the truth before they can die.

    There were times when, as a 15-year-old who’d had just about enough of parental irritation, just listening to that song could help me chill out and somehow find a little compassion for the two superannuated dorks I knew as Mom and Dad.

    Nice essay, Robyn–thanks much!


    • RUKind on March 15, 2008 at 07:20

    Someone told me the Buddha said that as he came out of his great meditation under the tree. I was born Oct 3, 1948 so I know very well the difference between 1946 and 1948 children. There was a massive social bifurcation right at that inflection point in time. Some stayed with Eisenhower and the Republicans and conformity and Nixon. Some went with Kennedy and change and tossing off the yoke. Even my fellow 48ers divided along the jock/alcohol/reactionary and hippie/weed/acid/let-it-shine fault line.

    I find that I’m still much “younger” in my outlook on life than a lot of people around me who have far less years. Here’s a little gem from ABC News on research on brain structure and brain “exercise”.

    On the subject of the next gen and material stuff; I wouldn’t sweat it. We’re all about to share the pain of The Great Depression barring some miracle. In the early eighties I felt that my work and degree (CS no less) entitled me to a better life than my high school grad, trade union father. It wasn’t so at that point in time. It did become so later on.

    The fundies rant about secular humanism as the new religion. They have it totally wrong. Materialism is the new religion. It was regenerated sometime after the Big One and it’s been riding the technology rocket ever since. How many gig does your iPod have? Can you surf the web from your cell phone? Take multi-megapixel pix and short videos with it? Use it to play music? My laptop here has a 17″ UWXGA screen (1920×1200) and more computational power than an early Cray supercomputer. And it’s outdated. Can’t read or write DL DVD, let alone Blu-Ray. Worse yet, I had to buy a Wireless-N card to get better wifi speed. Life’s a hitch. My kids all have laptops and cell phones that can do all that stuff.

    Happiness is a state of mind. It’s being able to fully enjoy what you have and where you are and who you are with at any given moment in life. There is wonder everywhere around us. All you have to do is know how to look for it.

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