Ignore the Pointy Old Finger


By now we should all feel suicidal. 

The pride and vanity before the fall with selfie photos should have wiped younger generations off the map.

I understand people look preoccupied with themselves in the age of selfies.

There certainly are individual cases where the selfie-obsessed person really is carried away with themselves.

However, when it becomes the subject of ongoing debate or mockery in our culture, we’re usually being bamboozled by culture itself, more than vanity.


A Picture’s Thousand Words

You might be surprised, as I was, to learn op-ed writers and highbrow historians heaped scorn on young people in the late 1800s when mirrors first became a thing.

A hat tip to Jason Feifer, editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine, for his deep dive podcast on this very subject.

Up until that time, to see one’s own reflection was rare.

You could do it in a pool of water, to some extent.

If you were wealthy, you could afford the primitive mirrors of the time.

But to sit in front of a bathroom mirror, or carry a compaq as young ladies do, is an invention of the Industrial Revolution.

As you knew so little of yourself through your own face, so the discovery of it prompted the opening of many “soul windows.”

Previous generations had momentary glimpses of this at best; with the advent of mirrors, you could read the “story” of your face every day.

Isn’t it odd we scorn the detailed investigation of our own faces, even as we know they tell many stories?

Naysayers Always Point (or: Haters Gonna Hate)

If you come across articles or memes on social media depicting your generation as incurably vain, I have reassurance for you.

When mirrors became widely available, priced and manufactured to modern standards, the nattering nay-bobs of the day rushed to typewriters to point fingers.

The treatment fell especially hard on young women, of course, who suddenly felt an enhanced obligation to be beautiful and presentable at all times.

There, in the annals of history, are our great-great-great-great grandparents, bashing our great-great-great-grandparents for being obsessed with their appearance.

Then as now, people were labeled narcissists for spending too much time looking at their own faces.

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Vanity IS Dangerous

Lest you think I reflexively defend young people, think again; vanity is no virtue.

It might seem obvious, but there’s a subtle difference between pride and vanity. Definitions are in order.

Pride concerns one’s opinion of oneself, and willingness to assert oneself according to one's own decisions and actions.

But vanity concerns others’ opinions of oneself; it's mainly preoccupied with looking and coming across favorably toward other human beings.

It is only human to want to be accept-able and accept-ed everywhere you go.

That turns to foolishness when you become a slave to it; when you cannot function without esteem and approval from others.

Your pose will not hold; God will see to it your weakness and vulnerabilities are exposed, if you refuse to bare them.

Pride is Even More Dangerous

I can’t help noticing, though ...

Finger-pointers in the era of selfies are fond of public means of expression to spew their disgust.

It’s not like they privately confront young people posing for a selfie at a coffee shop or tourist site.

These sullen writers also pursue an audience. They just do it with words instead of photographs.

The means, however, is irrelevant; it’s the motive that concerns me.

You see, a rarely mentioned cultural tendency in another Pessimists’ Archive episode hearkens to an ancient proverb.

Looking forward to the time of redemption, the prophet Jeremiah foresaw:

In those days people will no longer say, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’” - Jeremiah 31:29

Societal elders have, throughout the course of history, pointed their crooked old fingers at their successors.

Baby Boomers and older Generation Xers bash you … because they were bashed when young … by people who took brow-beatings from their elders.

Perhaps, if anything has changed, it’s that now you can find their venom more quickly and easily than ever before. It’s hiding in your pocket.

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What’s So Sour About Grapes Anyway?

I wondered for many years where this expression "sour grapes" came from.

It’s a figure of speech for dismissing something one cannot attain or reach. It describes envy, a cruel and rotten taskmaster of the human soul.

For your ill-disposed elders, verbally lashing out at your generation for churning out selfies betrays their lingering emptiness.

They stare at the prospects of limited time, decay and decrepitude of old age, and realize the Sixties aren’t coming back.

They know, at a deep subconscious level: “Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” was vanity.

They know nothing of the great things your generation has done, or will do. All they see is time slipping through their fingers, with no way to get it back.

So they dismiss and despise the very behavior they once welcomed at your age.

 Vanity, Young Man

Young people’s lives are full of noise, as Blaise Pascal once observed.

When I was a young single man, life was noisy and had plenty of vanity. Marriage, children and the steep climb to maturity will, in time, rid you of this.

In the meantime, your generation should not be singled out as beyond hope.

Young men’s strength, energy and vigor simply amplifies vanity. But to pretend older people are “beyond such things” is, well, vanity.

An older man like me wrestles more from submission and surrender to the inevitability: I'll be exposed and humiliated if I don't deal with it..

A philosophy I would recommend, by the way … but you must choose; it cannot be enforced.

Tune In to Inspiration

Don’t waste another second reading some crotchety old diatribe against selfies. It’s just the way of things; let it slide.

The great thing about being alive in 2019 is how many other good things you could read, watch or listen to instead.

I offer one such program to uplift and inspire you, and recommend many others.

And in the meantime, you should know: your Father is pleased with you. And for what it's worth, so am I.


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