Greying. . . .

March 29, 2004 | 7 comments
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So why do I always resist the rather obvious point. The Sunstone crowd is greying, the Mormon history crowd is greying. . . . There is an easy answer, I suppose. I’m from the old Sunstone crowd. I’m greying. Maybe I don’t like facing the obvious. But I really don’t think that’s it exactly.

I just don’t agree that the problem is the greying. Or if it is, then “greying” can afflict the young as easily as it does the old, the blog crowd as easily as the typewriter one. I see the problem as something more like getting stuck, going round and round and round.

You’ve surely had this experience. You walk into a room, and the people there are in the middle of the same conversation they were having when you left the room minutes, days, months, years, even decades before. Some people get stuck on this round and round in their twenties, some are still eluding it in their nineties.

This getting stuck, this round and round, can afflict institutions as easily as it does individuals. An institution, like an individual, can circle round and round a formative experience, a painful moment, a triumph. And never move on.

I do understand there’s a down side to this reflexive concern of mine about getting stuck. Some things that were good 30 years ago are still good today. I too care about back bone, commitment, truth. . . . But when that moment of recognition comes—I’ve been here before, I’ll come around again, nothing will change—a warning bell goes off for me. I’ve come to trust that finding oneself on the round and round is a pretty reliable sign of danger.

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7 Responses to Greying. . . .

  1. Kaimi on March 29, 2004 at 2:50 pm

    I suspect that it’s a problem of keeping old regulars happy while incorporating new blood as well. You see this all over, and not just in Mormon studies — six months ago, Slate magazine had a piece on the greying of Playboy. Or even with sports teams — how do you keep together the core of players that got the team to the playoffs last year, but also bring in new players who will be the next core of the team?

    I suspect that the general problem of maintaining a core while adding new people incrementally may be exacerbated in the case of Sunstone, if the necessarily post-93 insularity has made it more difficult for new faces to become part of the crowd.

  2. brayden on March 29, 2004 at 2:57 pm

    We actually had an interesting discussion about this in Sunday School yesterday (believe it or not, SS was interesting!!). We talked about how the grafts in the olive tree made the fruit good. The analogy of course is that the Church, or the people of Israel, have always been in need of external replenishment in order to break stagnation. When the Nephites stagnated, they became prideful. Lamanite converts helped to reestablish the base and create a new generation of faithful followers of Christ. So happens with nearly every other kind of social group, as Kaimi notes. Every organization or social group needs fresh blood in order to ensure perpetual vitality.

  3. Grasshopper on March 29, 2004 at 3:17 pm

    That’s a good point, brayden. What do the roots in Jacob 5 represent?

  4. susan on March 29, 2004 at 6:04 pm

    I like the logic of the graft analogy; adding something different to the stock can bring about transformation. It says a lot about how change can happen.

    But underneath this metaphor shares much with the greying metaphor. Something fresh. Something new grafted in. The old tree is losing its vitality.

    I’m interested in finding a way to talk about change and renewal that doesn’t depend on this easy structure old/new, age/youth. How to get at what feels very old, dull in some sprightly twenty-year-olds I’ve met. And how some old folks continue to surprise and delight and trouble me. All to the good, I say.

  5. Kristine on March 29, 2004 at 7:02 pm

    This isn’t very profound, but it might make you smile–among the luckiest happenstances of my life, I had a chance to have dinner with Esther Petersen about a year before she died. I (22 at the time, I think) and a couple of friends picked her up and asked if she had a preference for dinner. She was open to our suggestions, and somebody said “How about Thai food?” She said, “oh, I’ve never tried that. Let’s go!” I remember thinking at the time that I really wanted to be like that at age 85!

  6. Susan on March 29, 2004 at 8:54 pm

    I wish I had met Esther. She’d make my short list.

  7. Kristine on March 29, 2004 at 9:23 pm

    She was amazing. It was only a couple of hours, but stands out in my memory as one of those luminous moments when I thought I understood life. I didn’t, of course, but SHE did and it seemed contagious for a little while.

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