Getting old in the television industry is an unforgivable sin. Sooner or later, every TV writer commits this offense. I realized it happened to me when I entered an office to pitch a TV script and the person I was pitching it to was younger than the socks I was wearing. As jobs dried up, I began muttering to myself things like Winston Churchill took on the job of saving Western civilization when he was 66, and Abraham was 70 before God first knocked on his tent.
If I was an airline pilot, I think being 40 would be preferable to being 19. I am sure I would feel a little queasy if I heard a 19-year-old on my jet’s intercom inform me he would be at the controls to fly me to Chicago. Maybe that makes me an ageist in the opposite direction, but I can live with that.
It is one thing for the upside-down world of popular entertainment to enshrine the worship of youth, but we now have evidence this phenomenon has infiltrated the grown-up world with grown-up consequences. A major breach in the United States intelligence community is big news. The person at the center of that breach turning out to be a 21-year-old is bigger news.
Now 21 is not what it used to be. There was a time when men younger than that stormed beaches, sailed the Seven Seas and survived the Depression. The 21-year-old suspected of revealing classified information was arrested at his mom’s house where he lived. As the story continues to unfold, we have since learned this young man was given his top-secret clearance when he was only 19.
Did this suspected leaker give the information to the Russians, the Chinese, or the Iranians? No. He’s accused of sharing them with a bunch of 16-year-olds on a gaming site where he could be seen as a leader and treated with almost cultish adulation … all while living at mom’s house.
Weirdly, the Gospel about St. Thomas made me think of all those boys hunkered down in their basements consuming secrets meant only for government leaders. Granted, the apostles were obviously not teenagers but were nevertheless behind a locked door. But what they did share with the teenagers on their computers was a dichotomy of being isolated from the general population, but forming a sense of community because of it.
The isolation the boys in their basements experience is a prison of their own making and part of the confluence of technology and the breakdown of certain cultural norms. The apostles were hiding out from a clear and present danger.
It is speculation, but I believe those boys in the basements who received all this classified data were thrilled at having access to secret knowledge. It must have been how the Gnostics felt; taking great joy in “knowing” something the great unwashed could never see or fully understand.
The Gospel about St. Thomas was the beginning of opening the door. By the time of the Ascension, there will not be any doors left. The danger was still there, but the truth of Jesus was so real they were able to become their full selves even if that meant the eventual martyrdom for almost every one of them.
The young men in today’s basements may be afraid of some things too, like the harsh realities of adult life. Today, that reality can be put on hold for extended amounts of time, and in some cases be suspended indefinitely. That can lead to bad things like receiving and sharing sensitive intelligence that could get someone killed.
The apostles had been held captive by their fear. They also learned they should not keep their community to themselves and covered most of the known world with the word of the Lord. Maybe someday an electronic version of St. Patrick or St. Francis Xavier will come and be the saint of the Holy Ether. Until then, I hope most of those young men sitting alone in the dark will hit pause on their games and press the start button on their lives.