Cusp

Over dinner I saw that another atrocity had been committed in this evening’s commuter rush. The armed wing of Old Man Pincott’s ‘Elders’ had already claimed responsibility.  I flicked over to Reality News to hear an ageing actor read their statement aloud – you’ll have seen him dressed up like the renegade himself in the trademark chequered shirt, high-waist slacks, those sensible shoes. His watery eyes and white whiskered face were aflame with patchy anger. He spat words at the assembled cameras. Even his voice carried the same high vibrato, the same incendiary zeal, as Pincott’s before his voice was forever banned from the airwaves:

“To watch our young ones embrace or body-swerve commitment, slam-dunking meds or booze or work, wracking their bodies with sports and sex or any number of addictions, with a tenacity I haven’t seen since the day was mine and to say – to do – nothing, to stand for nothing, moreover to be asked to stand aside further into the dark margins, to create more stage space for this sick, cyclical drama of youth to unfold in all its boring glory – this is what is demanded of us, your rightful Elders. This is what is called for. An impossible negotiation. You say: move out of the damned way! Shut your wrinkled mouths! Make of your geriatric selves an irrelevance. Better yet, wither ye away.”

I watched for the cut – there: the studio producer, an old friend, a pro – scenes of bloody carnage, what Pincott ironically calls ‘mercy killings’ to ensure these innocents died young before corruption and canker swelled in their bodies like the ranks of his tumescent following. I flicked off the television and went outside.

In the garden, beneath clouds and stars my grandson sat on a low wall engulfed in the pixelated pedestrian bitstream of his game console.

“Okay, Billy? How’s it going?” He looked through me. I smiled and pulled up a chair next to him.

Sure, we make opposition like Pincott’s easy. We encourage it, even. Only stupid societies don’t wish to learn from the old, and as societies go, we are way up there with the worst. We are ageing too, dammit. The explosion of celebrity-obsessed tabloids are surely an inversely correlated sign. Read the rhetoric in the party manifestos. Visit the bright box-homes in deathly cull-de-sacs in which our young intend us to be sequestered. Beyond a certain age you only have to venture out to feel the antipathy in public spaces, in public transport. Hell, just in public. To be old is to be a separate species. Invalid. Literally, we all become in-valid. The more moderate political wing of the Elders wants to legislate for respect.

But the Elders are wrong. Pincott is wrong. Our dramas are just different, sleepier, more measured plots. Shuffling plots. We, the mouldering fruit of its loins, don’t really know this world any better than the young. There was no golden age. Society is not decaying any faster than it was for the Romans. And deep down we know it.

A challenge: to stand not in opposition but shoulder to shoulder with these self-same young and look at a world that you think you know. To see it afresh as an alien place takes imagination. And yet by the time you do this, it certainly is an alien place. We must handle the transitions. We pass it on. Okay? Or they take it. Nothing remains, all right, except the wisdom and experience that is our gift. Hold on and it will be pried from your arthritic fingers, or you can pass it on willingly. It is the same with respect.

“Hi Grandad,” said Billy. “I missed you.”

Do you hear that, Old Man Pincott?

In the cascade of social contracts the voluntary agreements we make will always outshine, will always have more dimensions, more facets, more impact, than familial legislation to bind us to those we do not wish to know. And to break the rules? To forage for meaning in these margins and forge new templates for communicating across the boundaries of generations? To kill, even, one’s own ageing ego and push back the parameters and allow a younger soul entry on their own terms into this adventurous world? To move oneself, finally, out of the damned way? Yes, these are heresies for the Elders.

But this is what it means to love.

Above me a new moon in this nicotine sky, these pointed ends, these cusps.


30 Responses to “Cusp”

  • marc nash Says:

    Wow! A call to arms in a generatiocide… There was real passion and feeling in this appeal for calmer heads. Of course the tenor of my own novel disagrees with such reasonableness of view… The warrior class that lapsed into degradation with the Crusaders and chivalry, was ever an outlet for the mutinous energies of youth and such outlets today are not given healthy vent and lead to murderous oedipal assaults in the form of suicide bombers et al. I am not saying that we should have conscription or anything of the sort mind, merely that the youth will always have designs on the power & authority of their elders and a surplus of energy that when they are twinned… The whole of the 1960’s political and counter-cultural movements can be read this way and the 80’s Counter-Reformation of Thatcher & Reagan as the parents reasserting control.

    Cusp is a wonderful word and so perfect for this piece, bristling with acuity. Ouch!

    Marc Nash

  • Donald Conrad Says:

    Love the thought provoking wordplay here. Particularly “deathly cull-de-sacs”. Thanks.

  • Linda Says:

    Worth the wait, so much to ponder, savor. Your last two lines slayed me. Peace, Linda

  • Jen B Says:

    Your mastery of language is impressive. This is a thought-process but it also manages to be description, condemnation, and finally promise of some better thing. Really well told. Thanks for sharing it.

  • mazzz_in_Leeds Says:

    Very cool! And great title
    “The more moderate political wing of the Elders wants to legislate for respect.” This is going to keep me thinking for a while

  • Laurita Says:

    I read this three times, the writing, the language, the ideas are all staggering. Standing ovation for you. I also enjoyed the irony of the Elders killing before corruption. There is so much of that to be seen in society.

  • Cathy Olliffe Says:

    I need more coffee before I can fully comprehend everything you’re offering here, Simon.
    Such passion, such eloquence.
    Angry poetry in the hands of a master.

  • David Masters Says:

    An interesting twist on the usual terrorist profile – disillusioned old men instead of disillusioned young men.

  • Tony Noland Says:

    Simon, I can see now why my own FridayFlash this week held such resonance for you. To kill, even, one’s own ageing ego and push back the parameters and allow a younger soul entry on their own terms into this adventurous world? On their own terms, rather than the terms forced on them by a preceding generation…

    There’s wisdom here, insight to be proud of.

  • Christian Bell Says:

    This work is rich with a fully realized other world. The telling and the language here is exceptional. Great job!

  • shannon esposito Says:

    This reminds me of the nature shows I’ve seen where the old leader (insert any animal you wish) has to defend himself from being overthrown by the young up and comer. Living in Florida, I have learned to respect & see the elderly in a new light, but still…it’s the new, untried ideas of youth that keep our environment fresh and moving forward.
    Thought provoking piece!

  • kim Batchelor Says:

    Very interesting and provocative read. Exactly what I expect when I get old enough for social security.

  • Jane & Nathan Says:

    Wow, I love the line, ‘and allow a younger soul entry on their own terms’ – really thought provoking! Another great story!

  • David G Shrock Says:

    Thoughtful and inspires thought. Nice positive ending that resonates the story.

  • Laura Eno Says:

    Much to ponder here, masterful language and imagery. Very touching moment with his grandson.

  • GP Ching Says:

    Just beautiful! Made me think about how technology and ease of travel have made our young people independent faster and separated them to some extent from the wisdom of their elders. On the other hand,many elders haven’t respected the gift of youth opting for the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality. It takes a big jump from people on both sides to bridge the generation gap. Thought provoking. Nicely written.

  • Marisa Birns Says:

    This is just brilliant.

    The fecundity of thought and language is masterful.

    Last two lines? Beautiful.

  • Cascade Lily Says:

    Gorgeous stuff as usual. I have been having an interesting conversation with an editor this week about a piece I submitted, which, although light-hearted touched on the themes of our increasingly isolated yet crowded populations. He’s encouraged me to explore it further in another couple of stories. I think I would like to be able to write as well as you do before I tackle them! Bravo.

  • Michelle Says:

    thought provoking – I like when I’m left with something to ponder on.
    Great piece of flash

  • Anne Tyler Lord Says:

    Wow! What a brilliant piece. You have so many layers of meaning here. The perspective you wrote from is unique and there is so much to think about in the issues you raise. Most of all, your master use of language poetically expressed such deep emotion and provoking thoughts.

    So well done!

  • Melissa Says:

    Brilliant, beautiful writing. So much to think about here.

    “To kill, even, one’s own ageing ego and push back the parameters and allow a younger soul entry on their own terms into this adventurous world? To move oneself, finally, out of the damned way? Yes, these are heresies for the Elders.

    But this is what it means to love.”

    These lines remind me of Simone Weil’s concept of attention, the ability to put one’s own desires, prejudices, and any other thoughts through which you’d see the other aside–let the other stand before one as he or she is. I’d like to see the youth do the same. 🙂

  • Melissa Says:

    You write the truth so well. There’s an award for you at my blog. 🙂 http://windspirit-girl.livejournal.com/21170.html

  • Jessica Rosen Says:

    What a richly drawn and fascinating piece. The dull acceptance of yet another atrocity in the name of the Elders. The searching examination of the meaning behind it. Most of all, the lessons, subtly given, as reminders to everyone. “But this is what it means to love.” Simple, exquisite.

    Take care,
    Jess

  • Jared Branch Says:

    Love this, as always, though I haven’t commented in a while I still read you religiously 😉 As always your prose is something to be envied. I love how you finish this.

  • Lou Says:

    You’re certainly not fiddling. Instead you’re performing the critical job of an artist, to point to the truth regardless of how many are smart enough to look.

    This is, as always with your work, complexity executed with amazing deftness.

    “I flicked over to Reality News to hear an ageing actor read their statement aloud – you’ll have seen him dressed up like the renegade himself in the trademark chequered shirt, high-waist slacks, those sensible shoes.”

    Reality news. Yep.

    Thank you.

  • Amy Taylor Says:

    Your use of language and the accomplished story-telling here is a wonder!

  • John Wiswell Says:

    Hard to add anything after David Masters’s succinct reply and Marc Nash’s reflection. So I’ll just up and confess that I liked your old-man’s revolution and would like to see stories from their effort, on or against their side. You could do a lot of philosophical plumbing with them.

  • Estrella Azul Says:

    Definitely caught my attention from the very first line! Really great flash 🙂

  • Mark Kerstetter Says:

    “Legislate for respect” – what a laugh! We see this in microcosm every day in the corporate world, where Orwellian language is passed down to the ranks and we’re supposed to swallow it like good troopers. It’s a wonder anyone can use language like a sharp instrument, as you have done brilliantly here, on the cusp. I love the last two lines too. As long as one can voluntarily give of himself, he will not be invalid. Bravo.

  • Dana Says:

    Really interesting. And the last line was beautiful.

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