On the last day of 2017, I am thinking about the state of being old. It started with a tweet from our Prime Minister, Most Hon. Andrew Holness, on December 28, wishing the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips a happy birthday, Now if I were better at this blogging thing, I would have the tweet embedded right HERE for you to see, so but far that has defeated me. It said this: "I am extending sincere birthday wishes to the Honourable Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips. Dr Phillips is 68 today." Somewhat redundantly, the PM went on: "He was born on December 28, 1949 and has been Member of Parliament for East Central St. Andrew since 1994."
Innocuous, I thought. But the tweet brought 40-odd responses, many of which accused the PM of "throwing shade" by mentioning the Leader of the Opposition's age. Respondents inferred the PM meant that Dr. Phillips was too old and furthermore, had been a Member of Parliament for too long. Other responses listed the ages of Jamaica Labour Party ministers, some in their eighties, as a kind of slapback.
I am closer (much closer) to Dr. Phillips's age than the PM's and I wondered what all this meant. For some, apparently, being 68 is in itself a problem. Age should not be mentioned in a birthday greeting. Age is loaded. Old is bad. Young is good. Length of service is contested - long service could mean commitment and perseverance, but could also mean being past one's sell by date. How to know which?
Of course, Twitter is unsuitable for such nuances, but I think we need a new way of thinking about youth and age. The former is not automatically good and the latter not by definition bad. Being young is not an achievement. Everyone alive went through youth. Getting old is a privilege - I'm thinking about friends and family who died young. I'm thinking about that dead baby on a Mediterranean beach. Yes, old probably does mean not being able to figure out how to embed a Tweet into a blog, at least not on the first try, but it also means a certain lack of angst. An understanding of what's important.
John Leland, writing in the New York Times, says if you want to be happy, think like an old person. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/29/nyregion/want-to-be-happy-think-like-an-old-person.html
There's even a new definition of old people: the perennials. Those plants that live long and bloom year after year. Perennials are enduring, perpetual and everlasting. Up to a point, of course. Our blooms may get a bit straggly, but year after year, there we are.
And according to Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, "Youth is a gift of nature, but age is a work of art."
Call me old. I'm cool with being an ever blooming, work of art. Dr. Phillips should be too.