Sunday, June 29, 2008

McCann is old, and so am I

If you're a fan of mystery novels as I am, and even if you aren't, the Swedish writer Henning Mankell writes wonderful novels, and the solving of murders is merely one plot element. Over the weekend I reread his first mystery, Faceless Killers, and the following passage helped me clarify something: "A new world had emerged, and he hadn't even noticed it. As a policeman, he still lived in another, older world. How was he going to learn to live in the new? How would he deal with the great uneasiness he felt at these changes, at so much happening so fast?"

The character speaking is Kurt Wallender, a Swedish police detective in his forties. However, his words clarified for me why I have been uncomfortable with John McCain seeking the presidency at age 71. I know it is not politic to question someone's age, but since I am only two years younger than McCain, I can talk about his age without being accused of age-ism.

It is fascinating to watch myself age. For example, I subscribe to both Us and People magazines but am debating if I should let my subscriptions lapse because I have no clue who anybody is anymore. Blake Lively? Spencer Pratt? Heidi Montag? Leighton Meester? I could find it out easily who they are, but, at age 69, I don't care.

One of the reasons I retired from teaching at the end of 2003, after 32 years, was realizing that to continue to be an effective teacher I would have to learn how to do Powerpoint presentations and set up websites for my classes, and I just didn't have the interest or the energy to do this. If I was going to learn new technologies, it would be for my personal creative projects.

I have a cell phone which I turn on once a month or so to see if there are any messages, and if there are, they are so out-of-date by the time I hear them, I can ignore them. I do not text message. I read my youngest daughter's Facebook page but do not comprehend half of what is on it. I do have an iPod and I have transferred much of my cd collection to it and I download music and videos from iTunes and regularly. And I am computer literate, having bought my first one in 1986.

But the question I face and the question John MCain faces is the same Kurt Wallander faced: How do we "learn to live in the new"? John McCain and I do not feel an urgency, or even a need to "live in the new". And more, to what extent are we capable of even recognizing "the new"?

In traditional societies the old are honored and are responsible for the spiritual life of the group. But such societies do not change and thus, the old are the best ones to insure continuity.

But not since the invention of the printing press has the world gone through such enormous changes as it is undergoing now, but changes now are happening at a much faster rate.

John McCain and I are too old to comprehend all the changes and too old to keep pace with them. We cannot "live in the new". Nor should we expect ourselves to.

© 2008 by Julius Lester


The challenge was to use the word "mundivagant" as an adjective.

The winner is Jonathan Shaw of Annandale, Australia, who submitted two
wonderful sentences.

"Jules Verne is responsible for giving us the mundivagant Phineas Fogg."

"Just down the road from us is a backpackers, and the revelries of mundivagant youth enliven our evenings."

I questioned Jonathan about "is a backpackers" and he explained that "is a backpackers is what an establishment aimed at that clientele is called here." For us on this side of the equator, the sentence would better read, "Just down the road from us are backpackers, etc."

Another fine entry came from Roberto Delgado, a former student of mine:

"It is a lie to settle when you feel called toward a mundivagant fate."

No comments: