December is the jolliest month. Except if you’re a lachrymose liberal who takes offense over a holiday in which a cis-white male uses his magic privilege—and Amazonian slave labor—to distribute cheap plastic trinkets throughout the world. Or if you sicken easily of hearing John Lennon’s trite ear-drubber “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” on an endless FM radio loop. (Including treacly John Legend, Josh Groban, and Maroon 5 covers. It’s truly unreal how f***ing grating the song is. Like it blows a hole in my mind with its auditory assault.)
So this is Christmas, and what have you done, besides bulk-order your spoiled spawns’ wish list off Amazon and wait for elvin couriers to maniacally rush the goods to your door? To be fair, click-and-shop beats wrangling with feral shoppers on Black Friday just to save $50 on a Sony flat screen. The savings in your dignity alone justifies paying the extra $24.99 for one-day shipping.
Pardon the prolegomenon, but it’s all just marshmallow toppers to the real hot chocolate of this piece: aging in the Advent month. Or Chanukah, for our Jewish friends. Or Happy Honda Days, for our sensible foreign auto buyers. Or, since inclusion is today’s jam, the winter solstice, for our lovely, child-sacrificing pagan readers.
True story: I was supposed to be born on Christmas. But, even in utero, my generous spirit couldn’t be controlled, even via contractions. So I made up my feeble forming mind to let J.C. have his natal day, and made my grand entrance a few sun cycles earlier. I’m counting on St. Peter listing off my sacrifice to preserve the Savior’s thunder when my time’s up.
And the clock is ticking. This birthday, I’m officially ringing in middle-age, which, according to the New York Times, kicks off the chocks at 35. (Sorry, age-sensitive readers, but who are you to argue with the Gray Lady about going gray?) I’d let out a hurrah if my children weren’t asleep while I’m writing this. Because unlike most of the American millennial set, I don’t mind getting old. Yes, I still pine for the prosperous post-Cold War, pre-GWOT days when the internet hadn’t crushed out attention spans like an anvil. What millennial doesn’t? But as A.J. Liebing said, “the world isn’t going backward, if you can just stay young enough to remember what it was really like when you were really young.”
Now where was I going with this… sorry. Forgive the dotage-induced doddering. My watery Keurig bean juice is flagging in caffeinated effect. Ah! Yes: remembering is the key to maintaining a content equilibrium as the years pile on, even as your cognitive capacity to recall where your keys are or when your wife’s birthday is slips. It’s in memory that we find the most durable stake for the future.
Not to pivot too dramatically (our dear editor keeps hectoring me to drop the memoiristic asides and “get the heck on with it”), but leftism wages unending war against memory, remembrance, and stabilizing continuity. The entire premise of progressive liberalism is built on revolutionary change, forming a better future unshackled from the foibles of the before time. New societies are hard to create as it is. Hidebound dispositions only make it harder. The clinging to the past, its ideas, its faiths, its traditions, its mores, and its common perceptions, is why Marx’s utopian thinking was so muddled. Capitalism was supposed to ignite its own overthrow, the working class crafting a new world order by severing all bonds with the past, including more than a few atlanto-occipital joints. Except the toiling masses still stubbornly cling to the old ways, and rarely wish to swipe the magnetic drawing board clean.
The super-elite are driven by the same instinct. For all of the Klaus Schwabs giddily championing “The Great Reset,” the Davoisie isn’t about to relinquish its riches. The jet-set class has accumulated too many dabloons to simply throw them away to deliver us an egalitarian Eden. Our moneyed Masters of the Universe fully intend on keeping a gold-plated grip on what they’ve got.
Which helps explain the common millennial gripe about boomers, expensive home prices, and the 1%. But our country’s criminally high housing costs is another can of worms to be opened at a later date—maybe when I’m 40. The point is, there’s a class divide on what’s legitimate to hold on to as time sweeps by. The politico-cultural clerisy pushes for more state-enforced “openness,” but refuses to share the wealth. The young and impressionable, and now ascending middle-agers, agree in sentiment and demand tangible action. The resulting tension over property liquidation turns history into collateral damage. Why should a millennial—usually with his or her income entwined with a “partner,” but not a wedlocked spouse—not feel resentful when a downpayment on a three-bedroom is their combined annual salary?
This isn’t supposed to be a how-do-I-reach-theeeese-thirty-somethings column so prevalent in conservative rags. (I dunno: Sitting idly by while George Bush inflated a housing bubble in order to win re-election and continue waging war in Mesopotamia might have helped.) But it’s really how a center-right disposition eases the inevitable process of growing up. Matt Labash recently wrote that youth is about “adding things and people to your life,” while aging is about subtracting what you’ve long captured. I disagree. Racking up the years means racking up wisdom and memories, which, with any capacity for introspection, can be used to make fuller sense of life. Some of those memories eventually fall off, along with more than a few mates and molars. But life’s abacus can keep being added onto as long as you don’t stop shuffling the chips.
Age brings its own reward in acquired knowledge. But the progressive mindset can’t and won’t accept the essential value of the past. Overthrowing the before in service to a “temporal paradise” is the leftist imperative. “To acknowledge anything as ‘traditional’ in a liberal order is to consign it to the dustbin of arbitrary limitations,” wrote liberalism scourge and scholar Patrick Deneen. The discontent of now illegitimizes any understanding that came ex-ante. Call it the post hoc error propter hoc fallacy.
More often than not, it’s those on the left who most regret birthdays piling up. “But to be young was very heaven!” is how Wordsworth captured the spirit of the perfection-chasing French Revolution. In the modern era, mil-left-innial aging laments are captured in apocalyptic Instagram posts played in sync with ‘90s alt-rock hits, with a generous filter applied to erase crow marks.
As for my thirty-four-going-on-thirty-five self? My goal is to age in stride, while fostering, not forgetting, all the successes, failures, and wisdom I’ve accrued. Besides, what’s there really to carp about? I have a couple kids, a couple mortgages, and a couple beers each night. Sure, the HVAC’s acting up, and there are still autumn leaves in the backyard to scoop and bag, but minor inconveniences come with getting long in the tooth. The zillionaire Silicon Valley vampires can keep their fountain-of-youth secrets. Aging gracefully is cheaper, yet richer, in a Bildung sense.
That is, until the qubit is fully tapped and quantum mechanics changes reality as we know it. Then all the life lessons I plan on passing along as a parent will be brushed off as analog ravings by my more clued-in kids. “There goes Dad again, with his silly 2+2=4 logic.” Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait, indeed.