Musings & Threads. Wisely Ignored.
When I was young, I was disappointed by the lack of wisdom I found from my elders. I had expected this boundless source of wisdom…but most of my questions were met with comments like “don’t ever get old” or something equally frivolous. I didn’t see that their hardscrabble lives prevented them from pondering the existential properties of life.
So now that I am over 60, I wonder a lot about wisdom. I am fortunate that people seek me out for advice, which I willingly bestow, and nowadays, I often wait for the request. But I realize now that wisdom is not all that it is cracked up to be.
I remember once asking someone who was older and spent a lot of contemplative time in nature, “What is the meaning of life?” He said that it wasn’t that he had the answer, but that he was at peace because he had stopped asking the question. And I realize that wisdom is a lot like that.
Wisdom allows me to see broader, to see things from a larger perspective. But wisdom, sadly, mainly comes from our own mistakes. I can see that a partner isn’t right for my niece or nephew because I have experienced that relationship before either directly or vicariously. And that is why I think that the younger generation wisely ignores my advice.
They see me through my 60+ year old self. They don’t see the young passionate girl, who fell in and out of love, who didn’t show up for a lot of classes, who was a free spirit, a determined crusader for justice and a feminist pioneer. They see this older, largely successful, sedate, thoughtful, intelligent woman and think that I can’t possibly understand their life. After all, I grew up before the Internet, what could I possibly know about online relationships, snapchat, virtual careers.
But I think that it is just as well that they don’t listen to me. I wouldn’t be so wise if I hadn’t made so many mistakes. I wouldn’t have perspective if I hadn’t been able to move between cultures, rich and poor, Christian and Jew, black and white, men and women, mother and career woman, success and failure. My chances and mistakes are what gave me my wisdom. Had I listened to advice from someone like me, I never would have learned.
So, the cycle continues for the next generation and the next generation to make the same mistakes over and over again. We learn from our own history, not someone else’s. And maybe that is the purpose of life.