Transferring generational wisdom
10 July 2018 | Columns
I am fairly certain there have been discussions about the deterioration of society for as long as mankind has been able to sit around a fire and communicate.
The next generation has been the older generation’s scapegoat for thousands of years. The young and rebellious are the ones to be held responsible for the loss of dignity, family values and other signs of society’s cruel demise.
In an attempt to prevent this inevitable doom, the older generations set out to educate and inform their inheritors, in order to impart to them the vast wisdom that comes with life experience.
Today, wisdom is passed on through a variety of avenues: Teacher-to-student, mentor-to-mentee, peer-to-peer and friend-to-friend. But perhaps the most formative relationship is that of parent and child.
Society understands it is the responsibility of parents to familiarise their children with the ways of the world, to help them seek out their place in it and perhaps even to raise children who will preserve their values.
This is certainly true of my own experience. My parents were my first teachers, and as they are quick to remind me, their lesson plans are far from complete.
They are good at what they do, and as I have grown up I have often wished that I had kept some kind of running record of the lessons they have taught me - whether those lessons were intentionally conveyed or not.
About four weeks ago I was sitting in a coffee shop, my eyes glued to my cellphone.
I came across a blog by Walker Lamond titled ‘Rules for my Unborn Son’.
In this blog, Lamond has created a kind of movement for imparting wisdom. Since the beginning of the blog he has posted 485 rules and compiled them into a book.
The blog provides a collection of rules for “raising a thoughtful, adventurous, honest, hardworking, self-reliant, well-dressed, well-read and a well-mannered young gentleman”.
In short, I would call it a tall order.
An additional sentimental sucker punch is learning that Lamond started jotting down ideas for his rules after his father passed away. He began the project in earnest when he was waiting for the birth of his own son.
In my view it is unsurprising that many of Lamond’s rules are distinctly of the ‘father-to-son’ variety.
Number 49: ‘Call your mom’; number 36: ‘If you absolutely have to fight, punch first and punch hard’ and number 22: ‘Girls like boys who shower’.
But there are also plenty of cautions to be found in the seemingly limitless stream of parental rebukes. Timeless classics include rule Number 3: ‘When shaking hands, grip firmly and look him in the eye’, while number 169 says: ‘Be nice to your sister. You are her confidante, cheerleader, and bodyguard’.
There is also salient advice in number 16: ‘You are what you do, not what you say’ and my favourite is number 261: ‘Admit you are wrong. Be convincing’.
Despite the often negative implications that comes with the word ‘rules’ (unfair, limiting and inconvenient), Lamond’s blog is far from a tedious series of mini-lectures.
Instead it reads like one man’s attempt to document everything others has taught him and what he has learned on his own, and then manufacturing those lessons into something manageable and entertaining.
And it is very entertaining. He offers jokes with ironic humour and openness. The entries are often widespread, with supplementary songs (dubbed ‘required listening’ by the author) and also includes photos and quotes from the wise and famous. In this sense, the blog doubles as a kind of crash course in culture.
Perhaps best of all, the blog is open to suggestions. Readers are encouraged to submit their own maxims. This contributes to the feeling that while the project started as something rather personal, it has evolved into an engaging, collaborative forum for people to share their life lessons.
It does not bother me that Lamond is yet to release a set of rules for his daughter. I find the vast majority of his rules to be entirely applicable to my own life. I am also anxiously waiting for someone to set out rules for their daughter and I know for sure it will benefit me and many of my peers.
For instance, Lamond’s rules that prove particularly relevant for college students are gems like number 384: ‘All drinking challenges must be accepted’; number 375: ‘Don’t pose with booze’ and number 99: ‘Nothing good ever happens after 3am, I promise’.
And finally number 252: ‘If you attend a late night after-party, have exit strategies’.
It’s safe to say that nearly everyone’s first college year could have benefitted from those pieces of advice.
Lamond’s rules are doing the older generation proud and the range of subject matter he covers is impressive and speaks to the larger idea that as a parent, your primary motivation is often to protect your child; to save him or her from hurt, from embarrassment and from an often daunting world.
“Lamond is covering all the bases. That’s what being a parent all is about,” my dad said, when I mentioned I would be writing this column.
“A sun tan is earned, never bought.”
That’s rule number 434, by the way.