December 12, 2005
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank


Dear Marketplace Friend, 

      I'll come clean: this e-mail is not written to you, individually. There are a bunch of other folks who are receiving this, at the same time you are. That doesn't make you any less special; it just means that you are one of the special people I'm addressing. Who are you, anyway?
      The late Peter Drucker is remembered for his insightful questions; one of them was, "Who is your market?" Writing a virtual "column" like this requires a "face" on your reader; you have to conceive a human being on the other end, addressing them with your words. Who's reading this stuff?
      I hope I don't offend you to say that, as I write... I tend to look in the mirror for my target. I'm a lot like you: I assume that the other people in my life think, act and talk like I do. They're cut from the same cloth, out of the same mold, wrestling the same alligators, thrilled by the same outcomes, living lives with many of the same challenges I do. I'm a Boomer; I guess I assume that you might be, as well. Are you?
      The generational moniker is old enough to vote; we've been called "Baby Boomers" for over 20 years. We launched as a youth culture; we're aging into AARPhood with our surfboards and Botox, iPods and Lipitor, Beemers and 401k's in tow. In the next 12 months, Sly Stallone, the Donald, Reggie Jackson, Bob Vila, Laura AND George W., Tommy Lee Jones, Patty Duke, Bill Clinton, Cher, Sally Field, Steven Spielberg... will all blow on 60 candles trying to put 'em out before the smoke detector sings "Happy Birthday." Parade Magazine says this about that: "These aging Boomers have an unprecedented capacity to do, to enjoy and to influence the world around them." Overstated? Can you "overstate" 70 million people?
      Parade doesn't preach; they feature. Unlike much of the public press, they don't seem to promote agendas; they put people on their widely-read Sunday platform who reflect on things standing behind the headlines of the week. Yesterday, it was Gail Sheehy who had the bully pulpit. Her headline, cover story: "Life Begins at 60!" I'm convinced - more and more - that she's right...
      Sheehy is no amateur in the field. Her prior tomes established her validity on the subject. Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life ('77) laid out the nature of life's seasons. Pathfinders ('82) explained why some people overcome life's crises... while others are marginalized by them. New Passages ('96) took her perspective to a new level, going beyond the classic "midlife crisis" to see the potential in the future laps on life's track. In '98, she zeroed in on women with The Silent Passage, dealing with the untouchable issue of menopause. The next year, men got her attention with Understanding Men's Passages, laying-out the "new map of men's lives." For Gail Sheehy, her career as an author has been inextricably linked with the Boomers' journey through life. She gets that, and she gets it...
      For Parade, she puts it in these terms: "At some point in our 50s or 60s, most of us will face a crisis of great magnitude... Dramatic life accidents... strip away the edifice of our well-designed lives, and a hunger wells up for a greater depth of meaning and value in the activities of our everyday lives. The acknowledgement of death can be an enormous asset in one's life. It pushes us to search for meaningfulness. And the search for meaning in whatever we do becomes the universal preoccupation of the Second Adulthood. It is rooted in a spiritual imperative, as we grow older. Some people are moved to make a spiritual quest..."
      Moses put it this way, writing sometime after his 80th birthday: "For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by... Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:4, 12). God isn't concerned with the passage of time, because he has all the time in the world. But, us? We're constrained by time: whatever we're out to do, we must do with expedience. That's what "a heart of wisdom" concludes.
      If Sheehy is right (and, I believe she is), we're at a great moment in Boomer history. More of us will be in search of the answers that only the Gospel can answer... and others of us will be in search of their life's calling. What a great time to be a Boomer, talking to Boomers! They have questions; we have answers!

Bob Shank


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