Does wisdom and the vessel of that wisdom change as well?
Katherine Esty’s EightySomethings: A Practical Guide to Letting Go, Aging Well, and Finding Unexpected Happiness and John Leland’s Happiness is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old inspired me initially to think about wisdom and how it is passed along. “Of course,” I thought, “wisdom comes from experience. Lots of experience. It is passed down to us by the elders of the community.”
Wisdom is typically associated with experience, knowledge and sound judgment. But is it a trait held only by the old? Does wisdom have an age threshold? That is, do we have to reach a certain age before we can “have” wisdom? Is wisdom about telling, asking, and/or listening?
Can a twenty year-old and a fifty year-old experience job loss? Of course they can and do. Are the perceptions of the experience the same? Can the younger have wisdom to pass along to the elder in such a situation?
I once read about an official who served during the Clinton administration. Referencing domestic threats he reportedly said, “You have to be careful about always fighting the last war, because the next one is going to be different.”
Perhaps it is the same with wisdom. If we have been brought up that age bestows wisdom because that’s how it has always been, do we risk missing a wealth of wisdom from our younger generations?
Years ago I came to know an octogenarian who worked out in the gym most mornings. He often said, “You are where I was. And I am where you will be.” True enough.
One of the subjects of Leland’s noted book above had a similar saying: “I was once your age but you were never my age.”
Perhaps we can riff on this looking backward. At times an elder might dismiss a younger because of lack of experience. Maybe the younger should say/could say, “Yes, you were once my age and I was never your age. But perhaps you have forgotten what it was like to experience my age. Or perhaps my age is not the same as it was when you were my age.”
Wisdom comes in statements, reflections, and questions.
Circumstances change. Does wisdom and the vessel of that wisdom change as well?
I’d love your thoughts.
Video recommendation for the Week. Actually two this week.
First, one I shared with my students often. From the mouths of the elders.
Second, a thought to change perspective about age and wisdom from philosopher Alan Watts.
Make it a great week and HTRB has needed.
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