Saturday, September 6, 2008

What does it mean to be old?

I was talking with someone I just met in person, and she remarked that I seemed much younger than my actual age. She is not the first person to say that, at the Gordon Conference someone less than half my age said I seemed like I was his age. Someone at work thought I was his age, late 30's.

I do nothing to try and appear younger. I don't color my hair, I don't use make-up, I don't use any cosmetics at all, no lotions, no moisturizers, nothing except the very occasional soap and water and my nitric oxide bacteria culture. I am in pretty good shape, nothing remarkable, nothing that I would consider "youthful". High NO levels do retard aging, and do facilitate healing and repair of injured tissues.

I think the youthful appearance is more due to communication, and to a lack of being identifiable with a certain age and cultural group.

In the art field, once art has reached a certain age, it becomes trivial to place it in the age that it is from. An example people might be familiar with is in the movie 2001. Most of it was pretty non-era specific, except the bee-hive hairdo in one of the scenes simply screams 1968. There have been art frauds that were undetected when they were painted which became obvious years later because they could then be identified by the style of the era they were done in.

I think this relates to how language is generated by humans. When children acquire language, they acquire a language with a well-formed grammar and syntax. If the language the adults are speaking doesn't have a well-formed grammar and syntax, the children will synthesize a new language that does, they will create a Creole that combines aspects of what the adults are communicating with, but with a well-formed grammar and syntax.

When that happens, the language becomes "fixed", that is the mapping of sounds to mental concepts becomes fixed. At a fundamental level, communication is only the transfer of data from one individual to another which invokes a certain mental concept in the recipient. The only thing that can be communicated is mental states, ideas that are mapped into the neurological hardware that the person receiving the communication has.

I was looking through lyrics and came across the lyrics to Never Never Land.

You'll have a treasure if you stay there
More precious far than gold
For once you have found your way there
You can never, never grow old

And that's my home where dreams are born
And time is never planned
Just think of lovely things
And your heart will fly on wings
Forever in Never Never Land

The usual conceptualization of Never Never land is perpetual childhood and a perpetual lack of responsibility. It is not a lack of responsibility that is characteristic of youth, it is flexibility and ability to consider and learn new things. It is the old dogs inability to learn new tricks that makes the dog "old", not irresponsibility. It is the old dogs rigidity of neurological hardware that makes the old dog unable to learn new tricks. If your brain can't adapt to learn new ideas, then you have become old no matter what your chronological age is. If your thinking is old, you are old.

That is the essence of Conservatism, the essence of old and rigid thinking. Sarah Palin may be younger than I am, but her ideas are as old as the hills, from well before the 19th century. Teach Creationism and not teach sex education? Ban books? Open sports centers and close museums? That will prepare the next generations for the 16th century, not the 22th century.

Not just time when "dancing was a sin and beer came in buckets", but a time when thinking was a sin. Their next step will be to make thinking a crime. Think those times won't come again?