Yesterday turns this idea on its head in a rather fantastical way. Like Avengers and Spider-Man, it too features a “blip” of sorts that creates an entirely new set of conditions to which the characters must respond. More specifically, Yesterday imagines a world in which The Beatles—arguably the boomer generation’s most influential pop-cultural musical group—are suddenly erased from history. Only Jack Malik, a frustrated young musician, is left unfazed, which makes him solely responsible for remembering and communicating their music to the world.
Yesterday depicts in rather stark terms what is likely to transpire if boomers don’t adjust the ways in which they relate to younger generations. Millennials, Gen Zers, and yes, even us Gen Xers recognize and appreciate the contributions of the boomer generation. After all, where would contemporary music be without artists like The Beatles? But the repeated and ongoing refusal of boomers to pass the torch of leadership (whether in the realm of politics, religion, education, or economics), even and especially when it comes at the expense of their posterity, has created a generational crisis.
At least in the US, it has produced multiple generations of people detached from their history and unaware of their origins. And this intergenerational disjointedness is bad news for everyone involved—not simply because “Hey Dude,” the 21st-century version featured in Yesterday, is clearly a far worse title for a song than “Hey Jude” but because it makes the transmission of wisdom impossible.
A great example of how the transmission of wisdom depends upon intergenerational bonds can be found in Paul’s letters to his younger protégé Timothy. Yes, Paul himself intentionally mentored Timothy. However, Paul was confident in Timothy’s ability to lead his Christian community wisely not because Timothy possessed some kind innate capacity for being and becoming wise on his own, but because the wisdom borne by his Christian faith had been transmitted to him by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5).
So, when Paul tells Timothy not to “let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12), it’s not because Paul considers old ways of thinking to be inherently passé or believes that young people always know better than their elders. Rather, it’s because Timothy was a young man who was connected to the wisdom of the generations that preceded him.
Being and becoming wise is about so much more than knowing the difference between right and wrong. It’s about developing the capacity to discern when new wineskins are needed. Indeed, Jesus’ parable about wine and wineskins is itself an expression of the ancient Jewish wisdom tradition that he inherited, developed, and then transmitted to his disciples.
It is therefore no small wonder that Peter eventually developed the capacity to discern when the Spirit was calling for new wineskins, a sensibility he demonstrated well when he agreed to ignore Jewish food laws for the sake of his ministry to Gentiles (Acts 10:9–11:18). Similarly, it is this same tradition of wisdom that moved Paul to become “all things to all people” for the sake of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:22). So, whether we’re talking about Jesus, Peter, and Paul, or Timothy, Lois, and Eunice, intergenerational wisdom is the necessary ingredient for knowing when a new situation calls for new wineskins.
All this to say: Boomers, we are in desperate need of your wisdom. But we also need new wineskins. We face a world that is of a different order than the one you encountered. To move forward, we need elders who are willing to let go, empower us, and ultimately, trust that everything is going to be okay.
Of course, don’t just take my word for it. Listen to Woody, Spider-Man, and Iron Man, or maybe even John Lennon (who is still alive in the alternate reality of Yesterday). If your eyes and ears are tuned appropriately, then each of these films has the potential for serving as a timely wakeup call.
But if this summer’s slate of films doesn’t convince you, then perhaps you’ll heed the words of someone who knows a thing or two about pursuing wisdom in the midst of intergenerational crises: “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. … No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”