The Delicate Connection of Work to Person
Each generation seems to produce some defining epithet. Mine is called the “silent generation.” When I read this, I am puzzled. Officially it seems to refer to the fact that my generation has not produced many great leaders, social or institutional innovations, or dramatic shifts in fashion or style. We apparently have simply chugged along through our lives, maintaining the status quo, low profile all the way. Sometimes I feel defensive about this, but mostly I try to understand what silenced us, what sent us into the background of society. The best explanation I have come up with has to do with the war, World War II, which we lived through as children and then suffered the aftermath of as adolescents and young adults. The main thing about seeing the war from my point of view as a child was that it scared me witless. The saving grace of being a child (if you are lucky enough to be put in such grace by your parents, and I was) is that you are made to feel precious. This feeling feeds off into a specific attitude of loving and treasuring
your little body-which is mostly the whole identity that you have to yourself-and a general attitude of thinking that all human beings are valuable (because, to begin with, you are). Being alive is good. Observing war directly undermines this central attitude.