VIEW VIDEO We’ve had quite the little kerfuffle in Danville this past week. Some teenage boys in our town have adorned their cars with loud mufflers and have been racing up and down the streets of our town, agitating the populace. Sociologists have labelled today’s teenagers Generation Z. Judging by their cars, the Z must stand for Zoom. My neighbor Bill and I were sitting on his porch discussing the wretched depths to which today’s youth have sunk and his wife Karen started laughing and said, “Are you listening to yourselves?”
“What do you mean, are we listening to ourselves? What do you mean by that?” we said.
“You’ve become a couple of old geezers. The next thing you know you’ll be shaking your fists at small children walking across your lawns.”
And so we had, and now here we are, Bill and I, at the age of 61, firmly ensconced in Generation Geezer.
This was confirmed last Friday evening, when my granddaughter Madeline and I went to the classic car show on our town square. We were looking at the cars when Madeline asked me what year I’d been born and I told her 1961 and she pointed out, with unintended cruelty, that I was older than most of the cars there, which, while true, was better left unsaid.
But the final blow came this past Monday when I had supper with two younger gentlemen in the meeting and sent them a reminder via text saying, “See you millennials tonight at 6PM at Charbonos.” And one of them, I won’t say who, okay, it was Treg, wrote back saying, “It gets dark early. Let me know if you need a ride. Can you still drive at night?”
The truth is, even with cataracts, I enjoy aging, and the freedom it brings. All my life, old geezers have been telling me what to do—what to think, what to say, who to vote for, where to go, and what to be. But since I’ve become a geezer, their judgment no longer carries the weight it once did. Their opinions are no longer dictates I must follow, but thoughts I can ignore.
My last two sermon series, on spirituality and humanism, were, it occurs to me now, my movement away from the religious conventions of musts and shoulds and towards intellectual freedom. Most of you are experiencing that same kind of liberty, no longer believing something just because someone says you must. I gave a eulogy at a Catholic church a few weeks ago, and the priest was giving me instructions before the funeral, directing me to pause and bow as I approached the altar. When it came time to speak, I walked toward the altar, got ready to bow, then thought to myself, “Hold on a minute, I’m a Quaker. I don’t bow at altars.” So I just walked right up on the altar and gave the eulogy. And guess what, the earth didn’t open up and swallow me whole.
This isn’t to say I don’t bow, just that what I bow to has changed. My allegiances and loyalties have shifted. I’ve noticed this is happening all around the world these days. The young women of Iran are no longer bowing to despotic thugs disguised as Islamic clerics. Ukrainians are not rolling over and playing dead like Vladimir Putin believed they would. In our own nation, people are reconsidering the work/life balance and quiet quitting by the millions. When I first heard that term, I thought it meant people were quitting their jobs, but that’s not what that term means. Quiet quitting simply means people are reducing the amount of time and effort they devote to their jobs. What we bow to is changing, and it’s happening all over the world.
This is what aging does to us. It causes a shift in our priorities and perspectives. When our grandson was born, Joan said she was going to Alaska for two weeks to help our son and daughter-in-law. I asked her what she would do if her job wouldn’t let her, and she said she’d find a new job. What we bow to changes.
The changes that accompany aging have compelled me to begin a new sermon series that I’m calling Stuff I Want to Do: A Geezer’s Manifesto. In this series, I will describe the change in priorities that often accompany aging. But more than that, I will explore how we might spend the last quarter of our lives. I know there are some here not yet in that quarter, but you will be one day, if you are lucky, and it’s wise to plan ahead.
So here is the stuff I’ll be thinking and speaking about in the weeks ahead, the stuff I want to do, a geezer’s manifesto.
In my geezer years, I want to save less, and give more. I don’t want to die with gobs of money in the bank, gathering mold, when human need is so great. I plan to give my last hundred dollars to a hungry child then keel over dead. I am a geezer. I don’t need a new car, a bigger house, or the latest fashions. I need only the satisfaction of giving what I have gotten.
In my geezer years, I want to talk less and listen more, mostly to young people, whose voices I have too casually dismissed as uninformed and naïve. I will not share my opinion unless asked, nor presume to think it my duty to correct, to explain, to defend. I am a geezer. It is time to put down my microphone and pick up my ear trumpet.
In my geezer years, I will embrace modernity and not condemn it. If I catch my grandchildren listening to their music, I won’t scoff and tell them the music was better when I was a kid. When my children and grandchildren buy electric vehicles, I won’t regale them about the glories of the internal combustion engine, nor will I rant about the power grid being insufficient to power all these fancy electric cars. I will trust that minds far brighter than mine will rise to this challenge and conquer it. I am a geezer. The future belongs to my grandchildren, not to me.
In my geezer years, I will not complain about taxes. I have been blessed with schools, libraries, roads, museums, safe food and water, protection from crime, fire, and malice. I have been financially assisted in my old age, provided medical care, vaccinations, and wise counsel meant to ensure my well-being. I will not behave as if the blessings I’ve received should come without cost. I am a geezer. The good life isn’t cheap, and I will not demand it be.
In my geezer years, I will not act as if know more than everyone else. I will acknowledge my knowledge is dated. In 1900, the repository of human knowledge doubled every 100 years. In 1945, it doubled every 25 years. In 2022, it doubles every 12 hours, and I graduated from college in 1988. I will delight when younger people know more than I do. Indeed, I’ll give generously to make sure they know more than I do. The greatest sin of my generation is our failure to make education widespread and affordable. I am a geezer. I will cheerfully give what I must to make sure younger people know more than me.
In my geezer years, I will vote for bright and capable people, no matter their party, race, gender, or religion. I will vote for people I believe to be sincerely committed not just to the betterment of the United States, but the betterment of the world. I will not fall prey to catchy slogans. I will think, reflect, and act with courage, resolving to improve our shared life. I am a geezer. I know better than to be deceived by people who want only my easy vote but never my committed critique and engagement.
This is the start of my geezer manifesto, which I will further define in the weeks ahead. I urge you to write, during this series of messages, your own geezer manifesto, the principles to which you will dedicate your lives, the stuff you want to do, before you, in the words of the immortal Kermit the Frog, croak.