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In search of cross generational relationship


I started reading Arthur Brooks' book, "From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life".


In the early chapters he describes the process of decline that occurs as we age, claiming that most innovative accomplishment and "success" occurs in our 20s and 30s, and after that there is a steep decline. He explains that for many people this awareness of decline becomes a devastating blow, that some who have early success and recognition never recover from.


He then clarifies two distinct forms of intelligence that emerge at different stages of life, based on the work of British-American psychologist, Raymond Cattell.


Fluid intelligence..

“the ability to reason, think flexibly, and solve novel problems...“Innovators typically have an abundance of fluid intelligence. Cattell, who specialized in intelligence testing, observed that it was highest relatively early in adulthood and diminished rapidly starting in one’s thirties and forties.”

Crystallized intelligence...

“the ability to use a stock of knowledge learned in the past...tends to increase with age through one’s forties, fifties, and sixties—and does not diminish until quite late in life, if at all.”

The premise of the title of the book "From Strength to Strength" is that meaning, happiness, and purpose are linked to our capacity to accept the decline of our early strength and the capacities linked to fluid intelligence, and embrace the later life capacity of crystallized intelligence, and how this can be used to serve.

“When you are young, you can generate lots of facts; when you are old, you know what they mean and how to use them.”

Brooks advises,

“Devote the back half of your life to serving others with your wisdom. Get old sharing the things you believe are most important.”

I have been holding onto a vision of creating something, the justus cafe. The justus cafe is a vision of lifting up the creative capacity of communities that engage in the arts of social change. I have bursts of creative energy, followed by stalls in energy and imagination. I can imagine that Brooks' clarifying the strengths that come at different stages of life has something to do with this.


Over the last year as I have endeavored to develop the idea of this justus cafe, it has been clear to me that I need the energy, flexible intelligence, and creativity of younger folk. This is consistent with a deep sense that relationship across generations is so important.


Brooks actually references the current dangers of the youthful dominance of the tech sector that have been

“...battered by scandals and plummeting public admiration. Where once they were venerated as the future of capitalism, today people often see their products as harmful and their leaders as selfish and childish.”

The question that emerges for me is how will the youthful energy, imagination, and innovative practices of the young, find the wisdom and capacity to crystallize knowledge of those who have lived longer, and vice versa? How does a relationship of mutual benefit and respect get initiated and nurtured?


My instinct is that if this is to occur, it will need to be initiated by an older generation (i.e. me) who knows the wisdom of this kind of relationship...in part because I am old enough to know my limitations, and what I need, and an inkling that we are better and more together, that we need each other. We’ll see who I find, and what will be possible because we find each other.



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