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Posted on Thu, Jul 28, 2011 : 9:50 a.m.

When did you get old? Huck Finn 'got' it! Borders didn't.

By Wayne Baker

Thumbnail image for 0727 Huckelberry Finn and Tom Sawyer in German millennial stamp.jpg

What is the difference between Huck Finn and Borders? Adaptability.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series from Our Values about core American Values. Dr. Wayne Baker is away this week and has invited Our Values guest columnist Terry Gallagher to discuss this week’s theme: When did you get old? Terry is a communications director for a nonprofit environmental organization in Ann Arbor.

We’ve been asking the question this week, “When did you get old?” Meaning when did you decide that it was too hard to change, to adapt to new conditions, to make the compromises needed to go forward?

It’s an issue not only for individuals but for all kinds of businesses and organizations, and for countries and states as well. The bankruptcy and liquidation of Borders is one example, and the budget staredowns in Washington and state capitals across the country are others. Some people would rather face death than change.

Being locked into the past, though, seems to be a violation of one of our American core values. Adaptability has always been one of our great strengths. We need to look no further for an example than that great American archetype, Huckleberry Finn.

At the very end of his trip down the river, rather than return home, Huck decides: “But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.”

The territory Huck’s lighting out for? It’s the future. Disorderly, unbounded, unsettled. A place of freedom and new opportunities.

In Washington and in states around the country these days, our leaders seem to be reminiscing about some Golden Age back in the past.

Instead we might need to light out for the territory.

Who's going?

Add your thoughts in a comment below.

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Fri, Jul 29, 2011 : 3:45 p.m.

When did you get old? The person who has asked this question and is writing about it is apparently not old enough. The question is not about the time a person has existed. The question is about experience. The term age relates to a process called ripening or maturing. Age describes a condition characterized by an outstanding quality such as experience. When you buy cheese or vinegar, you would prefer to buy a product that has experienced aging. Similarly, when a fruit is unripe, it has no sweetness, and it is unfit for consumption and eating unripe fruit causes stomach upsets. We question and check the age of minors and youth if they have to make a purchase of alcohol or tobacco. At their age they are not old enough to make the purchase and it is a concern about their mental maturity. In sex relations, age is again important, and age is verified in all criminal investigations involving sexual conduct. The issue is not about adding years to life. The issue is about adding quality to life. In Indian tradition, age is associated with experience and gaining of practical wisdom and the elderly are treated with respect not because they had survived but with the expectation of getting insights about the problems of life.

K Thompson

Fri, Jul 29, 2011 : 2:21 p.m.

This article is too brief, light, and incomplete. References to "Washington" are vague and Borders liquidation and other examples are not explained. How is Borders different from Huck Finn? Not clear. They over expanded, tried to offer online purchasing like Amazon, but article doesn't really explain. Please give details and analysis not sweeping generalizations lacking supporting evidence.


Fri, Jul 29, 2011 : 1:58 p.m.

'Tis an interesting point about change. It maybe more about an atitude, a loss of the next venture atitiude - curiousity. After retirement I decided to try jobs I thought I might learn something or enjoy. Each of those jobs were so different from each other that the next potential employer threw their hands up in the air as to what I might do. But, the difference from a high speed desk job (retired) to a receiving dock worker to a calibration tech to a line cook has been a ball. Finally I a relative found jobs for me to do which were physical and challenging in my 70's that would be a snap in my 20's. All of the above helped control an expanding waistline, keep in better shape, and enjoy the new challenges. Now my time is spent helping two different 501(c)3 organizations. All the usual people challanges and deadlines; but for shorter time periods and no briefcase case to take home. When I look back I realize what I do is allocate resources for myself and others. I find tomorrow fun. OH, I forgot to mention I hate plumbing!


Wed, Jul 27, 2011 : 7:21 p.m.

Everything you wanted to know about Borders: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>