Recently, I became preoccupied with the question of ‘the generational gap.’ Perhaps this was because my aforementioned “fault” of youth has started to slip away, or perhaps because of the influence of a wonderful novel called The Reader, (Der Vorleser) by Bernhard Schlink, which I had swallowed whole in just 3 hours on a flight.
Let us return though, to the subject at hand. If each one of us thought about how we live, what we do, how we communicate, what we talk about, and how we build relationships, with people of other generations, we would all come to different conclusions. My own personal conclusions are as follows.
First conclusion: I hate being lectured! I have done many things in my life in spite of such sermons. But this isn’t because I had particular difficulties in my relationships with members of my parents’ generation. Actually, after my father’s death, I suddenly realized that I still need him! I think about him much more often than I did at the time when, just like all of us, I pursued all my trivial goals without bothering to recognize that human life is a fleeting thing. Now, I’m beginning to understand that I vehemently rejected any attempt of the older generation to cross the boundaries of my personal world. However, with regard to my younger sister, I actually sometimes behave like a senior relative. She’s received quite a number of harsh life lessons from me.
Second conclusion: We are all someone’s ancestor. The intergenerational ‘conflict’, shall I say, is within us all; we are each its bearer. On the one hand, we strive towards our freedom and independence. On the other, we become a generation of ancestors ourselves, to those younger than us.
It is precisely in this internal conflict that our ‘contrariness’ is exacerbated, encouraging us to commit acts of stupidity, which leave us feeling regretful. One of my friends told me that she went and lost her virginity only in order to spite her mother’s protectiveness. And she did it with a man who was actually repulsive to her, while she was drunk. On the other hand, I also know a guy who achieved a couple of MBAs in economics from excellent Western universities, thanks to a schoolteacher who ignited in him a love of maths.
Life constantly changes, and sometimes I want to understand how my parents’ generation felt at my age. Somehow I think their world was more harmonious, more profound and . . . romantic. Still, I wouldn’t change my world for theirs.
I would opt for a relationship between the generations which is not an irreconcilable clash, but which takes the form of a dialogue. What about you? Please write to the Editor so we can discuss it firstname.lastname@example.org!