Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The revival of the rock musical “Hair” inspired many aging, or should I say “aged,” baby boomers to make a spiritual pilgrimage to Central Park recently and reminisce about the wonderful things our generation gave America – the sexual revolution, a drug culture and tie-dyed T-shirts. Did I forget anything?

It offered us a chance to look back because looking ahead doesn’t seem too promising. For 76 million baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964, the future is as problematic as our tumultuous teen years. So many of our peers are dealing with the personal agony of joblessness, divorce, illness, aging parents and spiritual malaise.

In her book, Leap – What Will We Do with the Rest of Our Lives? author Sara Davidson interviews boomers facing the next and final frontier. For many, life is cluttered with the pain of faltering careers, health issues and, yes, our perennial favorite, the search for meaning.

Spiritual navel-gazing was always popular with my generation, which elevated self-obsession to an art form. It seemed every other generation could age with grace, but we aged with angst, probably for good reason when you consider the anxiety that permeated our prolonged adolescence – an anxiety brought about by the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the draft, the pressure to succeed and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

For us, the world was full of tragedy and crisis.

Even worse, we were never spiritually grounded like our parents, who grew up during the Great Depression, fought in World War II and endured with hope the cataclysms of history. They had values burnished by adversity. Somehow, despite our professed ideals, we chose the path to hedonism.

As a generation, we thought we could change the world, but we didn’t do a very good job. Now, the curtain is descending on 76 million Americans who are having trouble accepting that reality. We’re in denial so badly that a few friends have suggested to me 60 is the new 40. Do they expect to live forever?

Henry David Thoreau, one of my generation’s patron saints, could have been writing about us when he said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

My mother and father grew older and wiser; they didn’t stumble from one identity crisis to the next.

We wanted success, we wanted prestige, we wanted possessions, we wanted all those things that are obstacles to Christ, and many of us wasted years in the relentless pursuit of all the wrong things.

But sooner or later, if you’re lucky and someone prays for you, you realize the opinion of your professional colleagues isn’t as cherished as the opinion of your son or daughter. You realize how important it is to have someone care about you because of who you are and not what you have. You realize the peace that surpasses human understanding is infinitely more valuable than a healthy portfolio.

Baby boomers vowed not to live lives of quiet desperation and yet so many are unhappy in their relationships and in their jobs. And while I don’t know the formula for a happy life, I’m convinced you have to live moment by moment, a day at a time, focused on Christ, unencumbered by regrets of the past and anxieties of the future. That’s the secret and that’s something you can start at any age, 25, 35 or 65.

J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.