Are Generational Designations Useful?

It has become fairly common to refer to generations of people using¬† a nickname, like “Millennials” or “Gen X”. Are these designations useful?

It doesn’t take much effort to find articles or websites that define a generational group based on some age range. For example, the “Boomer” generation, named after the Baby Boom that occurred in the 1950s, typical includes anyone born between 1946 and 1964.

The exact dates, and even entire generations, are hotly disputed. However, regardless of the exact definition, many people find it convenient to group people together in this way. Then some broad generalizations can be drawn over the group.

For instance, the group referred to as “Gen X” is often called by the alternate name, the latch-key generation. This refers to the fact that many kids in this generation were highly independent, largely as a result of both parents entering the work force. Every day, latch-key kids got themselves home from school, made a snack, did homework, and entertained themselves without any assistance from parents.

However, it isn’t true that every single member of the generation was like this. In fact, it is doubtful that even a majority of people who are classified as “Gen X”¬† had this experience. Similar examples exist for any one of the defined generations.

As such, is it actually useful to draw these generalizations? While the idea of these groups might hold some appeal to our order-seeking brains, are they actually illuminating in some way? Are there actual, helpful inferences to be drawn by these generational classifications? Or do individuals defy stereotyping?

Related questions: How do you show your age? In what ways do you not act your age? With which groups do you identify?

What Makes A Perfect Day?

If you can imagine in your mind a perfect day, what exactly would that mean? What are the necessary ingredients?

There are many things that can make a day nice, or pleasant, or even pretty great.

Maybe you wake up feeling particularly refreshed. Or the weather has lots of sun (or even rain, if that is what you prefer). Perhaps you get some good news, or some bit of luck comes your way.

However, what would make a day perfect? What are the components that would need to occur for a day to achieve that lofty adjective?


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘What is one thing you feel the need to do every day?’ We also discuss another question as well, ‘What is truth?’


Or is it the case that we don’t really know what goes into a really wonderful day? Can a day be full of surprises, and be perfect — or at least, fantastic — because of it?

Time spent with loved ones, lovely weather, doing a beloved hobby, helping someone in need, an extra hour in the day — what makes a perfect day?

Related questions: What could you do to gain an hour each day? What was your best day? What do you do with a day off work? Perfect or good enough?

 

What Is Luck?

We are all familiar with the concept of luck. It is a fairly simple idea. However, can you actually come up with a definition?

The most basic definition for what luck is would seem to be: “something good happens to you.”

Maybe that is sufficient. In a particular scenario, something can happen. If that something is good, it is good luck; if that something is bad, it is bad luck.

This way of thinking introduces the modifiers “good” and “bad”. Okay then: what are they modifying?

If we accept this idea of good luck is “something good happens”, it would seem the thing being modified is “something happens”. Does that make sense? But then, the one thing that we can be certain of is that something will happen. Things are constantly changing. Things have to happen in order for there to be change. Is everything around us constantly in a state of luck, sometimes good and sometimes bad?

However, sometimes it is the lucky outcome that something *doesn’t* happen. For example, if you fall out of tree (bad luck), you might think it lucky if you didn’t break a bone (good luck).

So now luck is “something does or doesn’t happen”? That seems pretty vague.

The concept of luck also would seem to contain some notion of likelihood. If something is overwhelmingly likely and indeed comes to pass, that would seem to be less lucky than something that is unlikely to happen. Finding a penny is lucky; finding a hundred dollars is less likely, and therefore luckier.

Can you think of an explanation for how you think of the concept of luck?

Related questions: How has luck shaped your life? Is thirteen an unlucky number? What makes change possible? What is the best sporting event you have seen in person?

What Is Genius?

The word “genius” gets used often these days. But what exactly is genius, and how can you tell it when you see it?

Either a person or an idea can be referred to as “genius”. Typically for a person, it might refer to someone with a particularly high IQ. This can be measured via an IQ test, and at least in theory, can be quantified.

However, it is also used in other contexts. For example, someone might be called a musical or artistic genius. Is there any possible way this can be measured? Is there some sort of threshold to be labeled as such in a creative field? Or is it entirely subjective?


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘What gives a person value?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What makes you you?’


When the word is used to describe a creative person, is it used for someone with a high level of expertise in a very specific field, or to someone with a broad skill set? That is, which is more of a musical genius: a guitar virtuoso, or someone who can play a dozen different instruments with a relatively high level of skill? Or perhaps both are?

If both, are we in danger of making the definition of the word so broad that it loses meaning? If everyone can be called a genius (in their own way), does the word cease to mean anything?

How do you use the word? Do you use it frequently, or know people who do? Does it simply mean “I think this is really great” or is it more than that?

What is genius?

Related questions: How can we measure intelligence? What is intelligence? How important are important people? How important is the artist to art?

What Is Art?

Art is something that plays a part in everybody’s life. Anyone, from any walk of life, can make or appreciate art. But what, exactly, is it?

There are several ways of thinking about art.

For example, it is that stuff that you go to see at a museum. From the paintings hanging on the walls to the sculptures on pedestals, you can go and look at Art, with a capital “A”.

But it is more than that, of course. At the museum gift shop, you can buy a print of some of the pieces, and hang them on your wall at home. Surely, a reproduction of a work of art is still art, right?

You might buy a painting from an artist who is not a household name. Or you might even paint something yourself. All those are examples of artwork. So it would seem that the pedigree of the person producing the work is not what determines if it is art.

Does intention matter? If I sit down at an easel, with a paint brush, I can produce a painting. The finished product might not be very good, but it is an effort of creation.

However, let’s say I find an elaborate spider-web in the morning, glistening with dew. Is that art? The spider that spun the web did so as an act of creation, but didn’t intend to make artwork — it was just following a biological imperative. Maybe I’m so impressed, I take a picture. Does the act of photography make it more or less artistic?

Perhaps only the appreciation matters. If someone appreciates something as being aesthetically pleasing, is that thing automatically a work of art? But doesn’t that mean that anything can be so classified? And if that is true, does that devalue what the word “art” even means?

Related questions: How important is the artist to art? Art: create or consume? When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone?