I was talking to a young colleague at work and mentioned a comedy routine of Bob and Ray. By the blank look on her face, it was obvious she had never heard of the classic radio team. Given her youth, this was not surprising. Later, I recounted the episode to an officemate closer to my age and was disturbed to see the same look on his face. Apparently, I was the only person on the planet who had ever heard of the two.
At this realization, I felt profoundly… something. At first, I thought it was age, a heavy mantle of being old that was settling upon me. I’ll admit I’m in the last half of my life, but I’m hardly decrepit. I hardly ever drool on myself, not much at least.
No, what I was feeling was something else. I felt it unsettling to be in a world that had never attended a convention of the Slow Talkers of America, didn’t know where the Susquehanna Hat Company was located and would never guess that the password was ‘Swordfish’.
I’m not a big fan of television and once, in a moment of foolishness, offered the advice to a new parent that he should consider limiting the TV time of his child. My friend was gracious in the face of my mistake, and admitted he’d considered doing so, but decided against it because he didn’t want his child to grow up culturally isolated, a concept I hadn’t considered.
That’s how I felt when trying to talk about Bob and Ray. Culturally isolated. This particular example was age-related, but is not inherently a problem of growing old. Rather, it was a feeling of living in a world with few other inhabitants. We find ourselves in such isolated circumstances sometimes. For example, I lived twenty years in Alabama where my liberal views were as welcome as Hillary Clinton at a UDC bake sale.
Ultimately, we all live in some form of isolation. Even if we are chameleons of accommodation, there are simply too many world views out there for us to see them all from the inside. We must necessarily all learn to be outsiders, isolated from those about us. If we don’t want to spend our days as members of the cable news brigade, ranting against all things not us, we must learn to accept—and tolerate—our differences. Only then can we bridge our islands of isolation into a single community of humanity.
I’d say more but there’s someone at the door. I think it those door-to-door taxidermists, ready to stuff old Fido. Fido’s in fine health, but why wait for the last minute? And by acting now I can get a lifetime supply of Einbinder flypaper, the brand we’ve gradually grown to trust over the course of three generations.