It’s common for a person to adjust his principles and priorities as he enters middle age. Often he grows more conservative, apparently hoping to hold onto the world that has been familiar to him, uncomfortable with the pace and nature of change ushered in by a younger generation of adults and an even younger generation of teens, whom adults young and old endeavor to understand and exploit.
From the outside, especially from a younger vantage, this can look like many things. Failure, forfeit, fear; the sign of a man passing his prime and either growing complacent or hoping to. It can look like the man has lost touch with the world, or that he wishes to. It can look like a kind of holistic selling out; like a betrayal.
Now past the twilight of my youth, I still believe that last word usually applies. The man betrays his pure, uncut emotions and loses or discards the perspective he fought so hard to acquire in the years when fight was all he had. He joins the ranks of the enemy and gets a uniform and a gun and turns that gun on his former compatriots: the patchclothed and unarmed youth. He forgets their language and shouts at them in a new tongue he doesn’t understand, but commands with a confidence that, he thinks, must mean something; that whatever he’s saying is the right thing to say; is truer than the truth he felt in his youth, because why would he continue to live if not to apprehend greater truth. The sunk cost of all his miseries.
But is that always how it is?
Is it possible that in its feverish evolution and desperation to adopt wave after wave of smarter, but somehow stupider people, the world might in some instances betray the man? Is it possible that sometimes it is the man who has kept apace and maintained his integrity through shifting conditions while the causes to which he pledged himself in his youth have failed, forfeit, and become fearful? How do we decide whether a mutation further edifies a movement or debases it from the inside?
Virtue can adapt, but adaptation is not virtuous.