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The Mickey scene and what makes an elder worth listening to

The best movie ever made was, of course, Rocky. More than any other movie, I've used it to teach. Not just for my students, either. The Rocky script taught me.

"The Three Questions," for example, were inspired by the Little Marie scene.

As life-altering as that part is, the most important lessons for students and teachers are in the Mickey scene.

I was reminded of it while listening to a The Science of Happiness podcast called "Are You Listening to Your Elders?"

I love the idea of learning from elders. I love how Mickey, while trying to convince Rocky to take him on as his manager, rattles off his qualifications:

"I got all this knowledge. I got it up here (points to head). I want to give it to you. I want to give you this knowledge. I want to take care of you. I want to make sure that all the shit that happened to me doesn't happen to you! ... You can't buy what I'm going to give you. I mean, I've got pain, and I've got experience."

This is why many teachers become teachers. We want to make sure all the shit that happened to us doesn't happen to our students. But the Mickey scene also portrays a teacher's biggest frustration - the unreceptive, resistant student. (Which Rocky initially was.)

He eventually comes around and soaks in Mickey's hard-earned knowledge. It's a classic older mentor/younger mentee relationship, and in a rational world it makes sense that the master would be chronologically older than the apprentice.

But the world isn't rational. Wisdom isn't automatically attained just by staying alive. It's collected through a combination of education, experience and thought. You don't just get it by not dying.

Older people should be wiser. Someone who spends 80 years learning, experiencing and thinking ought to be wiser than someone who does those for 20.

Nevertheless, there's the flipside view of elders. Jamie-Lee O'Donnell (as Michelle Mallon) shares it in an episode of the Derry Girls:

"Why does everybody get so sentimental about old people? Old people are assholes!"

Well, some are. Perhaps a lot are. Just because someone is old, doesn't mean he or she is wise. Or nice. (I can say that with more conviction now that I'm about to start Medicare.) Conversely, just because someone is young doesn't mean he or she isn't wise.

I recently had a deep conversation with Liane, one of the wisest people I know. She's 25. A self-described old soul, I'd rather get advice from her than from a lot of 75-year-olds I've met. And if I have a guru, she's brainpickings' 36-year-old Maria Popova.

It's clear. You don't have to be an old-in-age "elder" to be wise.

But Mickey was, so Rocky was wise to listen to him.

We all need a Mickey. A bunch of Mickeys. From a variety of disciplines, no matter what their age.

Because my grandfathers died before I was born, I've never had a mentor to teach me how to be the best possible "Gaddy." Know anyone?

In what parts of your life do you need a Mickey? Who might your Mickeys be?


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