The classic way of thinking about the old versus the young is that the first serves as a model for the second, respectful of the first, Michel Eltchaninoff tells us (in french). It is the exemplary Clint Eastwood in Grand Torino (2008), who plays an embittered and lonely old man but capable of transmitting his composure and even sacrificing himself for the new generation. The second way is more confrontational, opposing the modernity of the young to the possessive conservatism of the old. It founded the literature of the 19th and 20th centuries, at the dawn of the industrial revolution, for example in Dostoyevsky’s Demons and Freud’s oedipal Totem and Taboo (1913).
Michel, however, sees the Rolling Stones escaping this classification with the lyrics of their latest album. They rebelled against their psycho-rigid parents but do not want to become examples of classical wisdom. The message: “Let us believe that we are still young, attractive and lively, that we still sing the blues as if it were the first time.”
Let’s eat our candied thoughts!
All this is very reductive for aging and wisdom. Aging well means perpetuating the self-organization of one’s ideas. It means continuing to seek out and confront conflict rather than taking refuge in candied thoughts, less and less contested with age. The preserved old man avoids hanging around in his can. He has no need to demand respect, which his speech obtains by right, through its charge of empathy and the collectivism to which it claims.
To mature is not to modify one’s ideas but to thicken them, to cover them with successive layers of complexity. The successful old man is integrated into a larger world and not confined to his past. The young still exists in him. This persona who survives in the wise helps to organize the conflicts with the modernity of the new generation. The successful old person appropriates new ways of thinking with his “young interior”, always active in reshaping his mind.
Locked up and escaped
There are not two ways of thinking about the old versus the young, but two categories of people, those who lock themselves in a sealed personal world and those who escape from it. These two categories concern the old as much as the young. The differences exist, however, and can be guessed quite logically:
On the one hand, it is easier to change categories when you are young. More time to get there. On the other hand, there are more escapees among the old than among the young. They are not all concerned, because personal frustrations have turned many old people into themselves. But it is among them that we find the truly wise, those emancipated from ideas, those who have been able to verify that none is universal.
Are the Stones really rolling?
In truth, the Rolling Stones do not present themselves as old people but as young people who did not want to grow up. A presentation that places them in the category of confinement. Not knowing them intimately, I hope for them that this is an amplification by their marketing department. Personally I feel in contract with young people and not in contradiction with them. The contract is not to show an immaturity that mirrors their own, rather that the thickness acquired with age does not only concern adipose tissue, but the complexity of neural tissue as well…