- Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Dear Dr. E: One of the problems I have with young people who work for me right now is what seems to be a knee-jerk dismissal of everyone and everything they label as “old.” It’s as if they have no respect for the wisdom that comes with age and experience. Do you have any advice? — Older but Not Over the Hill in Hillsborough, Illinois 

Dear Older: Here’s a lesson you might consider using with your children, grandchildren, and even younger employees at your place of work.

When a hunter is scouting new places, an aerial photo (or what we used to call a map) is one of his most important tools. The bird’s-eye view shows the lay of the land: the topography, the rivers and streams, the hills, the roads, and the paths. Any hiker, biker, hunter, or even tourist knows the importance of having a map.

Without a map, you have no perspective. Your vision is limited to the next tree or turn in the path, the next fork in the road, the next building, the next rock and ridge. It’s hard to understand proximity, place, and even purpose when you don’t have perspective.

Without a bird’s-eye view of culture, we can likewise get lost. With no map based on the information of those who navigated these social and political waters ahead of us, we can quickly become ultra-reactive, responding to individual events without any rationale or plan.

With the viral nature of social media, news travels faster and to more people than it has at any other point in history. Viewpoints change at an even faster rate. Our national temperament turns on a dime. Though large groups of Americans have been swayed in their political positions before, they’ve never done so at the speed of light. Politicians and entire political parties rally behind a cause representing the opposite of the values they championed just five minutes earlier. Political and moral attitudes change as quickly as you can flip a switch.

We seem increasingly willing to make rash decisions and rush ahead, never considering how our ideas, conclusions, and consequent actions are interconnected with history, reason, experience and revelation. We act like we are islands unto ourselves and ignore that we live in a community of interconnected people, values, and virtues that stretches back hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

Today’s chronological snobbery has led to no one looking ahead or at the big picture. We’re only reacting, looking at one tree at a time — maybe not even a tree, but just the bark. We need to step back and see the whole forest. There’s a reason that your parents told you when you ran off ahead on a hike to make sure and stay on the trail. Why did they say that? Because that trail was mapped out by someone who had gone before you, someone who knew what might happen if you left the path. Those who were a bit older and wiser cared enough to leave directions that would keep you from falling off an unforeseen cliff.

Is it possible we would be much better off if, instead of running headlong into reactive politics, we pumped the brakes just a little and looked at the map? Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to pause and look at the big picture history paints before we assume we know how to navigate through the wilderness in which we find ourselves.

One of the most remarkable aspects of our Constitution is how forward-thinking our founding fathers were. They anticipated the issues of their day and how a certain set of ideas would impact the nation at large. They understood Locke and Montesquieu. They read Hume and Voltaire. They discussed Plato, Cicero and Socrates.

They knew their Bibles like the backs of their hands. They knew what Moses said, as well as Jesus.

They could see backward as well as ahead. They knew where they had been and where they were going.

They saw the promise of a republic and the dangers of a Robespierre. They understood the freedom of a covenant and the bondage of hierarchy.

They saw the risks in the rule of the gang and the power of submitting to the ways of God. They believed in a big God rather than Big Brother.

They had perspective. They saw the forest for the trees and the paths and roads that history and providence had carved on their behalf. They had a map, and they used it.

And who could possibly argue that we aren’t better off today because of it?

Higher Ground is there for you if you’re seeking guidance in today’s changing world. Everett Piper, a Ph.D. and a former university president and radio host, is writing an advice column for The Times, and he wants to hear from you. If you have any moral or ethical questions for which you’d like an answer, please email askeverett@washingtontimes.com, and he may include it in the column.

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