I am looking for a word that may not exist in the English language. “Generative” is the closest I can find to describe what I’m after, but only with a great deal of pulling and stretching. What I want is a word to express the consideration of generations other than one’s own, both older and younger. Can “generative” do all of that?
MacMillan dictionary defines generative as “capable of producing something.” Merriam Webster as “having the power of function of generating, originating, producing or reproducing.” The Free Online Dictionary as “of or relating to the production of offspring.” None of these work. A quick search on the internet turns up Generative Learning as “learning that fosters experimentation and open-mindedness,” and Generative Leadership, “the ability to evoke creativity (in people or situations)” or “providing contexts or conditions in which good things can come into being.” Nice, but not entirely what I am after.
I’ve noticed that we tend to get locked in our own generation like a gated community—gated with denial, while, as with races and cultures, there are so many more benefits to be gained by associating outside of it. One of the richest experiences each week in my life is the writing workshop I conduct at a local retirement home. The participants in the workshop turn their memories into stories, and week by week they are, in effect, writing their memoirs. I consider them some of my dearest friends, and role models on how best to age. Remember they came of age with Roosevelt, not Reagan, and are often times more liberal, more progressive, than their own children or many of today’s young.
One moment we are young and sliding down banisters. The next moment, it seems, we are reminding ourselves to hold onto the rail, not wear socks on the stairs, and take it slowly. How can it go unnoticed that life slips by speedily, and should we be so fortunate, we will all be in our nineties one day? My elderly friends tell me that “it is like being invisible, going to town, or riding a bus, people seem not to notice us.” How can we not see ourselves one day in every one of them?
Just as children enrich our lives, the aged can grace it beyond measure. One is an elixir of innocence and imagination, the other, of wisdom and acceptance. Navigating midlife, I want them both as ballast. It’s a matter of where-we-came-from and where-we-are-going, as we search for what-is-the-meaning-of life. This is our quest.
My father paraphrased it, “Life goes on until it ends.” I just think we need to be both beaming the headlights and looking out all sides, the rear view mirror and side mirror, as we travel along.