A Year of Passings and the Meaning of ‘X’

AT LENGTH - It has been a year of “sad passings,” as we like to say. It’s a euphemism we use because of our difficulty in talking about death. And 2012 seems to have had a significant amount of that. 
From the great and famous to the innocent or humble and close to home, I know of many friends and even my own family have lost dear loved ones this past year. I just wish we had some other form of social greeting other than “happy New Year” when I feel this sense of loss. Happy isn’t quite what I’m feeling. 
Perhaps “glad it’s over” could be used instead. Still, we have to move on, grief and all. It helps to share your grief. Perhaps with all of the high profile killings that have occurred lately, we should just declare a national week of mourning and get it all out. Even now, just reading this it would be appropriate to leave some space for a moment of silence for those who have gone before us.
But one of the things that happens when the elder matriarch or patriarch dies, at least it has in my family, is that you start to look around the table to see who is left and who is the oldest.
The cold days of winter don’t seem to make it any easier. Shaving in the mirror, I look at myself and think that just a while ago, I was  30 years old and suddenly I look around and I’m one of the elders. 
Not sure I’m that much wiser, but I do have a much greater context to work from. It is often said that people get better with age, kind of like fine wine or a good scotch. But one of my readers put it like this, “you don’t get better with age. You just become more.”  Meaning you just become more of whatever it was you were before, and I think that rings true.
So you know you are getting older when your children are reading in history books events through which you actually remember living. 
You know that you are getting older when you spend a significant amount of your social time attending funerals, memorials and wakes as opposed to birthday parties and rock concerts.
And you know you are getting old when you look around a meeting table and realize that everyone else is younger than you. 
But I refuse to ever get so old as to not raise hell when I believe an injustice has occurred. And I refuse to lay-off on the next generation either the blame or responsibility for righting the wrongs of mine or my parents generation. For I don’t think that the next generation is any better or lesser equipped to deconstruct the problems of mankind or their own community than we were, no matter how digitally connected, social-media networked or how good their test scores may be.  
None of the global access to information in this new age makes anyone in particular better at solving problems or curing any malaise of mankind. None of the new technology has made life any simpler–just faster.
Fast is convenient, but not always better. In our instantaneous world of news and fast food there’s plenty of room for corruption and errors. Efficiency doesn’t always bring quality. 
And even though we’d like our government to act quickly, especially in a crisis, we’d all like to have great decisions made with a certain quality of due-process, like considering the effects of an EIR or a court verdict on a persons life or the liberties we give up in the Patriot Act or the closure of our local courthouse. 
Even automated trading on Wall Street using sophisticated algorithms to conduct millions of electronic trades hourly has become its own kind of curse and caused some very “rational” fast catastrophes.
In fact, making things faster really seems to only work in scientific research, like using particle colliders to discover the elusive sub-atomic Higgs Boson particle, or figuring out how to send a rocket to Mars, or getting your cell phone to work better, which by the way doesn’t actually helps us communicate any better with each other.  
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had the meanings of digital messages  mistaken by recipients! However, discovering the X factor, or the unknown, is more than an American Idol exercise in celebrity creation.
How do we discover what we don’t know?  When we stop being curious about what we don’t know … When we stop trying to solve the problem for  'X' … And when we stop applying what we learn to solve the next problem, that’s when we’ve truly become too old.
And there are a lot of people I’ve known for years, who are much younger than I, who have been too old for a very long time.  
Stay curious, but slow down to mourn. Glad this one is over!
(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News and an occasional contributor to CityWatch. More of Allen and other views and news at  randomlengthsnews.com where this column was first posted) –cw
Vol 11 Issue 5
Pub: Jan 15, 2013