Immortality Begins at Forty
May 2, 2016 2:54 PM   Subscribe

Not nearly as uplifting as it sounds Sad truths. My first top post.
posted by Chitownfats (46 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
I love this. I am 43. I have been exactly wrong. I have won. I am not yet sure if I am immortal. I have doubts.
posted by meinvt at 3:10 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Venkatesh Rao being pseudoprofound previously
posted by RogerB at 3:15 PM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


There is an obvious question that everybody should ask but nobody does: how would you know if you were immortal?

It is not enough to merely go through one or more death experiences, miraculously surviving each one. By virtue of living in 2016, you’ve probably already sailed through many infections and diseases that would have killed you a few hundred years ago. You’ve probably also committed what would have been capital crimes in ages past.

No, you begin to experience immortality the first time you recognize the transience of experiences you thought were permanent, and more subtly, the permanence of experiences you hoped were transient.


I like this
posted by rebent at 3:18 PM on May 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


That article actively did not make sense to me. Either I'm totally misunderstanding it, or maybe the author is referring to a very narrow and limited sense of "culture", and if so that sort of "culture" didn't appeal to me before I turned 40.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:19 PM on May 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


Also I'm not sure I agree with his definition of "meaning".
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:24 PM on May 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I feel like this is Rao's version of a midlife crisis. Newsflash, biology hits even those of us who are paradigm-flexible.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 3:43 PM on May 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


I’ll call any emotionally coherent collection of truths, values and habits meaning. The half-life of a representative basket of meaning is about twenty years, adjusting for purchasing power parity.

Mad Libs: Thinkfluencer Edition
posted by RogerB at 3:46 PM on May 2, 2016 [29 favorites]


I'm with Greg_Ace, I actually don't understand what he's talking about. He had no examples to illustrate his thesis, which, as far as I can tell, he pulled out of his ass.

Can anyone give a concrete example of what he's talking about?
posted by MythMaker at 3:54 PM on May 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


*hyperventilates into paper bag*
posted by redsparkler at 3:54 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think where he's aiming with the under-40 thing is that the most profitable advertising demographic is people under 40, so there's more media created to appeal to under-40s. That strikes me as a really reductive definition of "culture" though.
posted by thegears at 3:59 PM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am not yet sure if I am immortal.
Do you have inside you blood of kings?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:09 PM on May 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


Not quite sure what his thesis is, but I'm pretty sure the influence of the Rat Pack in its heyday disproves it.
posted by klarck at 4:12 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


This would probably make more sense to me if my parents had told me there was a Santa Claus.
posted by clawsoon at 4:12 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Almost all culture, old or new, is designed for consumption by people under 40.

Rubbish. I'm white, male and about to turn 42. I'm pretty sure just about everything is carefully crafted especially for me, and to confirm and protect my special place at the top of the world and the centre of the universe. If there's anything that isn't for me, it's very easy to avoid seeing it, and if anything it's just the exception that proves the rule that culture is about me. It's nuts and gum, together at last, all the way down, and it's been that way for as long as I can remember.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:14 PM on May 2, 2016 [14 favorites]


If you define culture as those things that are "important" and "idealistic" and "represent progress", I tend to agree with the author, culture is not about people over 40. People over 40 can tag along, sometimes, but generally we tend to embrace the cultural ideals which were prevalent when we were young, and try and acquire the cultural artifacts which were out of our reach back then. There is a very real chance both have lost their significance by the time we can realistically obtain them.

Culture, in a sense, is "what motivates people"? Just think about a simple example like music, or conversational norms, or how to dress, or even think of the awful ways people 50 years ago could act and still be "good people" (and they probably were "good people" in the context of their time and place).

Those things and a million others have changed wildly in my lifetime, and I'm "only"49. I talked in another thread about having to watch myself for visceral "this is stupid" reactions to new cultural phenomena. That's a sign that "culture" isn't for me, not the creation and consumption of the leading edge of it, in any case. It doesn't mean I can't consume it, or even participate in it (usually in a limited way), but it is not for me.
posted by maxwelton at 4:33 PM on May 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


The only culture designed for people between 40 and Ω is prescription drug ads and unreadably dense literary novels.

I disagree strongly.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:02 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Rubbish. I'm white, male and about to turn 42. I'm pretty sure just about everything is carefully crafted especially for me, and to confirm and protect my special place at the top of the world and the centre of the universe.

Or what he/she said (if I read comments better first). I'm 43 and feel the exact same way. My father is 73, and he should feel the exact same way.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:03 PM on May 2, 2016


I think he's trying to say that people under-40 have ideals that lead them to make stuff, do stuff, and consume stuff but older-40 people have "seen through" those ideals and so are no longer motivated by them. So their task is to create, modify, and sell ideals to motivate the next under-40 generation.
posted by straight at 5:28 PM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am 40 and this article is a load of crap.
posted by mochapickle at 5:50 PM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


The writer has clearly not been to the grocery store in my neighborhood at 9 am on a Sunday, when the piped-in music utterly steps to the beat of Generation X. We are the Über-consumers -- old enough to be successful, early to rise with spare money to burn, and young enough to handle our debit cards & PIN numbers with swift aplomb. This is OUR TIME.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:07 PM on May 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


... but older-40 people have "seen through" those ideals and so are no longer motivated by them. So their task is to create, modify, and sell ideals to motivate the next under-40 generation.

I'm pretty sure those two sentences contradict each other. And in any case, the second one is only valid for a limited value of "culture" (as I mentioned earlier), that seems to be centered on economics.

Regardless of age, my job has been a matter not of meaning but of simply surviving (i.e. rent, food, etc.); and my "task" has never been and should never be merely selling something to anyone, let alone geared toward an under-40's demographic. My "task" in life is to learn to enjoy life, in whatever way I'm able. Period.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:08 PM on May 2, 2016


And I'll create whatever I damn well please, which is the real point anyway.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:10 PM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


No, you begin to experience immortality the first time you recognize the transience of experiences you thought were permanent, and more subtly, the permanence of experiences you hoped were transient.

Yea though, I have searched aisle 5 high & low for the Keebler Lemon Coolers, and he may be on to something there. The fleeting existence of the most tempting taste treat of my generation incommodes me with a nagging persistence.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:12 PM on May 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


a limited value of "culture" (as I mentioned earlier), that seems to be centered on economics.
What? Isn't all culture centered on economics nowadays? It may be a "dismal science", but it totally drives the arts... well, performance art at least.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:12 PM on May 2, 2016


Maybe, but it doesn't drive the creative impulse of a hell of a lot of people out there who will never make a dime from their efforts.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:17 PM on May 2, 2016


No, you begin to experience immortality the first time you recognize the transience of experiences you thought were permanent, and more subtly, the permanence of experiences you hoped were transient.

“I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don't want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.” ― Woody Allen
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:19 PM on May 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm with Greg_Ace, I actually don't understand what he's talking about.

I don't either, but I did try reading it in an impression of The Architect's voice from "The Matrix" and that was amusing.
posted by mmoncur at 6:46 PM on May 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


To be clear, the options for the new Gen-X cohort just now tuning 40+ are that they should sell something, buy something, or process something as a career. They may want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, they probably need to want to do that.
posted by bonehead at 6:56 PM on May 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


The writer has clearly not been to the grocery store in my neighborhood at 9 am on a Sunday, when the piped-in music utterly steps to the beat of Generation X.

I think he means "newculture" where also by "culture" he means "the product of the culture industry." Actually I'm not sure at all what he means about a lot of things I'm just pretty sure the idea of middle-aged people being continuously resold things that were meaningful to them in their youth does fit into the comprehensible parts of what he's trying to say.
posted by atoxyl at 7:24 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


There can be only one.

[Queen - Princes of the Universe kicks in.]
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:26 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


So... 40 is the new grownup? Welcome to adulthood.

I'm 47 and proud of it. It was hard work getting here.
posted by djeo at 7:31 PM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Maybe he should have taken more philosophy as an undergraduate.
posted by wuwei at 7:31 PM on May 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yeah, this article has some distinct truthiness to it. At the same time I'm 43 and DGAF about the ways I'm supposed to be so, whatever.

Also, I prefer my imaginary version with the katanas, beheadings, and Queen music.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:37 PM on May 2, 2016


I really liked this article. I understood every line and found it to be really describing the truth of experience.

...But I'm not sure any of that quality was inherent in the article! I think it was mostly that I recognized & clarified my own thinking about my current life. I'm not sure the article has any usefulness otherwise.

It gave me a lot of off-the-wall concepts and language that I can use as tools to figure my own head out, at a point in my life where the old tools (functional "α" to "40", as he puts it) don't seem to be yielding the results I'd come to expect.

I think the author may just be writing cow farts, but the methane helps me light my house.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 7:55 PM on May 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: we may just be writing cow farts, but the methane helps us light our houses.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:08 PM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Almost all culture, old or new, is designed for consumption by people under 40.

Sooooo...the hour or more I spent happily geeking-out at Upper Playground last week shouldn't have happened? Was that a failure of design or just me not knowing my proper place?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:25 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Frankly, Thorzdad, I'm shocked the cops didn't come and hustle you out of there for Consuming Culture Under the Influence of Age.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:41 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Venkatesh Rao puts forth some fascinating thoughts about consumer groups but wait until he becomes 40+ and looks back on his work. His phrase "Almost all culture, old or new, is designed for consumption by people under 40." will be replaced with:
"Almost all low cost or easily accessible culture, old or new, is designed for consumption by people under 40. Now over 40, society is doing culture to me in harsh, very expensive ways I didn't know about in my 20s."
posted by Muncle at 8:43 PM on May 2, 2016


People are reading an "olds, fuck off" message into this article which is totally not there. It doesn't say you aren't supposed to consume pop culture, only that its designers typically don't have over-40 in mind as the target audience.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:44 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, I prefer my imaginary version with the katanas, beheadings, and Queen music.

That was a documentary, and the events happened in real time!
--
Also, the article seems to equate "growing up" with "embracing nihilism", and then wraps some shallow pseudo-philosophy around it. No longer being the person to whom MTV is marketed, in fact, particularly shake my sense of my place in the cosmos. I find the idea of defining oneself by their relationship to pop culture marketing to be far more unsettling than any existential maundering about approaching mortality.
posted by pattern juggler at 8:49 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


'm just pretty sure the idea of middle-aged people being continuously resold things that were meaningful to them in their youth does fit into the comprehensible parts of what he's trying to say.

Believe you me I know the difference between seeing Todd Rundgren at the Armadillo & hearing him piped in over the vine-ripe tomatoes.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:19 PM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Todd Rundgren ... piped in over the vine-ripe tomatoes.

That makes for a hell of a mental image...
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:56 PM on May 2, 2016


Related?
posted by Paul Slade at 4:18 AM on May 3, 2016


I'm 42 and kind of enjoy bringing "pssh, whatever" to millennials.
posted by Fleebnork at 9:03 AM on May 3, 2016


... but older-40 people have "seen through" those ideals and so are no longer motivated by them. So their task is to create, modify, and sell ideals to motivate the next under-40 generation.

I'm pretty sure those two sentences contradict each other.


No, it's just really naïve cynicism. "I feel disillusioned about stuff I used to care about, therefore all idealism and religion is a scam old people pull on young people. It's my turn to be the scammer."
posted by straight at 1:14 PM on May 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


And also, he blames society.
posted by bonehead at 1:29 PM on May 3, 2016


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