The fear of becoming an old fart
I’ve always been afraid of becoming an old fart. I have always been afraid of oldfarting!
That would indeed be the ultimate shame for a futurist…
The warning signs
The main warning signs of oldfarting are quite easily recognized and I identified them very early on:
- I began to think that “it was better before”
- I started to find that “young people” really had an easy life compared to ours and even more to that of our parents.
- And the more the years passed and the more in my bad days, I found that the world no longer made sense
I struggled for many years as soon as I saw these symptoms appearing in me.
And then I almost gave up. I too was becoming an old fart.
I accepted my own oldfarting… telling myself that it was still better than getting assholized (a disease which can affect you from a very young age!)
A glimmer of hope
So I remember the day when I had a glimmer of hope.
More than 10 years ago, I created with my friend Michel Saloff Coste the Integral University of Paris and I remember a debate that we had organized with Edgar Morin, Patrick Viveret and Thierry Gaudin, 3 very well known french futurists.
I do not think to offend them by writing that at the time they had already reached an “honorable” age.
If some could expect a somewhat outdated debate between elders, it is the opposite that happened! I had the impression of seeing 3 young people fighting (with ideas) in a sandbox, all with obvious joy and complicity.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was fascinated.
And I said to myself: when I am their age, I want to be like them!
They make me want to grow old!
(I didn’t know yet that a few years later I would co-write a book in French with Edgar Morin, the ultimate specialist of complexity, and other authors, Prospective d’un monde en mutation, Éditions l’Harmattan).
Conversely, when I see some of my former idols talk nonsense, I really don’t want to end up the same.
If my personal list of people who make me want to grow old is quite short, the list of old idiots is, how can I put it… quite long.
Kindness and humility… and the lack of space keep me from publishing the list 🙂
Sometimes I even have the impression that there are more and more old jerks and that this year the old jerks of next year are already here!
So what to do to slow down, short of preventing the inevitable of our own oldfarting?
How to be like my new role models? How do you stay “young at heart”?
The easiest thing for me was to observe the people who gave me and still make me want to grow old.
I noticed that all of these people, staying young at heart, shared a number of commonalities:
- they stay humble
- they keep learning
- they hang out with young people
- they stay curious
- they have fun
At a time when pseudo-experts are invading TV sets and YouTube channels to assert their absolute truths all day long, it has become much more difficult during a dinner with friends or during a simple conversation to say the following words:
- I don’t know
- I have no opinion
- I don’t know enough about this to give my opinion
No, reading 3 articles on Facebook and watching 2 videos on YouTube does not make me an epidemiologist, an astrophysicist, or a geopolitical expert…
So, regularly at the risk of surprising, even disappointing, my audience, I don’t hesitate to say “I don’t know”…
This is for me one of the major issues in an uncertain and chaotic world: how to learn to learn, learn to unlearn, and learn to re-learn.
I wrote an article specifically on this subject, it’s here!
To sum it up, it’s very simple: read books (and avoid social media)!
Stay in Touch with Younger People
One of the most enriching and joyful experiences I have had in my life is to have been accepted by friends younger than me as a mentor.
I invite you to look for, or just to welcome into your life, a young person whom you can help with your experience and your advice, or simply by your presence and your ability to listen.
Of course, this does not work with your own children (the parent-child relationship is of a completely different nature…) but perhaps a nephew, a niece, the son or the daughter of a friend, a neighbor…
And my own experience proves to me each time that I learn much more from these young people who honor me with their trust and their friendship than what I believe they learn from me…
I feel full of love and friendship, for the closest of them who support me and support my “ideas of boomers” (I quote them in descending order of age): Valentin, Alexander, Parker, Elliott. Thank you!
I am convinced that they are helping me to slow down my oldfarting and I have a lot of gratitude for them.
A good, relatively easy way for me to stay young is to discover new places, new people, and travel (in person or by reading books).
I really like to visit a place that I don’t know, chat with people who live in a different universe from mine or read a book that makes me discover a new subject that I don’t know at all.
I also try to turn every meeting into a “Curiosity Meeting” by asking lots of questions to the people I meet.
Questions like these:
- What do you spend most of your time doing?
- At your level, what is your biggest problem?
- What are you most proud of?
- What excites you in the coming weeks?
- If today was your last day on earth and you had to leave a manual with 3 sentences for your son, for your family, what would you write in it?
And my favorite question:
- How could I help you?
I’m always surprised to see how with such questions a very superficial dinner can become an unforgettable evening… and how we discover or rediscover that the people we think we know are really incredible.
Play and Have Fun
Well, this is clearly the most difficult for me…
Letting go is not my forte. But that’s really something I’ve observed in my “old idols”: they’ve retained some of their childlike spirits and are never shy about tapping into it and having fun.
Yes, I believe that oldfarting is an incurable disease. But it is a disease that can be slowed down!
Let’s stay humble, let’s keep learning, let’s read books, let’s know how to surround ourselves with younger people, let’s stay curious, and let’s have fun!
And maybe that way I can, you can, rather than become an old fart, become a wise old man or woman!
“The essential difference between a young jerk and an old jerk lies in the time they have left to be jerks.”