To shape and bend a tree, it has to be done when the tree is young and supple. To attempt to bend the branch of an old tree will probably result in breaking it. So, it is with man. A young child''s values, attitudes and abilities can be shaped and bent under favourable conditions. To make an old man change his values and attitudes is an almost impossible task. His mind is too set and rigid with age and not receptive to new things. He would probably break if we try too hard to change him.
Our modern world is changing at an enormous rate. New things appear and die like mushrooms that sprout for a day. A new song that becomes a top hit for today grows old and jaded in a matter of weeks. New models appear every year in the world of cars. The older models pale by comparison. Slide rules make way for electronic calculators, kites make way for video games and notebooks give way to personal computers.
Only young people can handle their accelerated changes. The older people can only stand back and stare in astonishment and incomprehension. The young are like empty cups taking in as much information as the outside world can give them. The old are like full cups that cannot take in anymore.
So it is not surprising to find that the young and the old are worlds apart, in values, attitudes and abilities.
How many older people would bother to play a video game and how many of the younger set would bother to make, not buy, a kite? How many older folks can comprehend the mysteries of a kilometre and how many of the younger people have ever heard of a furlong?
In other words, the old and the young people, though they share the same space and time, have vastly differing concepts of what the world is. The young sees the world as an exciting place of new things to see and do. The old, through the eyes of experience and acquired values, sees the world as a madly changing place full of threats and moral upheaval.
The young daughter may see nothing wrong in dressing in jeans and T-shirt while riding a motorcycle in town. The mother may see her daughter''s actions as immoral and unbecoming of a young lady. The idea of what a young lady should be differs in the daughter and mother. How does one reconcile such differences?
Nowadays, we have rock music, new wave, punk, gays and other social developments. A young person may accept these things without question and treat them as part of life. An older person is profoundly shocked and angered at this ''deterioration'' of social values. With such contrasting views, how can the young and old hope to fill in the gap between them?
The gap is there, unseen and untouchable. Nevertheless, it is very real. Brash young kids simply cannot agree with old fogies. The jet-setter cannot comprehend the agony of his farmer father. Ballroom waltz cannot forgive the madness of laser-fired discotheques. Six-lanes highways laugh at jungle paths. The quiet village house weeps at the multi-storey business building. Young people move ever onwards. Old people are frozen to the ground. The gap widens. Despair creeps in.
Yet there is hope in despair. Not muchthat can be done to make the young and old agree on things. It is impossible to make them see things the same way. The only course left open is for them to love one another and let one another be what they want to be. Live and let live - only then will the conflict stop and the gap bridged. It is up to the old to accept the young as they are, love them and guide them with their wisdom. It is also up to the young to accept the old as they are, love them and be guided when necessary. In time the old will leave the world, the young will be the old and the yet unborn wie the young. The cycle continues. The gap need not.