Transcending Youth, Part One
Some numbers don't lie.
America and Europe are getting older.
We don't want to discuss the whys of aging societies and we don't want to discuss those societies that are experiencing a population boom. We just want to consider what it means to getting older.
In virtually every society and culture, aging is a virtual blessing. We are supposed to respect older people regardless of their station in life. Older people are believed to have acquired wisdom by way of their experiences, successful and failed, that even the most successful young wunderkind cannot even begin to fathom. With each passing year, we are supposed to acquire wisdom and insight- and we are supposed to pass on the benefits of our accumulated wisdom.
Today, in most of the first world countries, aging has become a liability.
For most of the last century, ours is a culture where the highest form of currency is youth. 'Learning by trial and error' or 'learning from their own mistakes' is the mantra because today, older people compete with younger people. Young people are not building on the experiences of those who preceded them because those who precede them are taking every opportunity to sabotage and usurp those following.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that younger people are morally confused. They have grown up in an environment where those who should know better don't care. They learn that 'all is fair' in the game that pits real youth in the game of life to the pretenders to youth.
Still, no matter how ferocious attempt to obviate nature, time will not be denied. The devotion to youth upends those who chase what will soon represent the lesser part of our lives. At 40 we enter middle age. At 50, we are reminded that there are those in the wings who are waiting for us to give way, for no other reason than our experiences and wisdom are of less value than youth. Mandatory retirement is no gift or recognition or achievement. It is the conclusion of a process that institutionalizes a process of inactivity and decline at an age when most of us have the capacity, wisdom and insight to be most productive.
As we age, we made to feel as if we are barely tolerated. A lifetime of struggles, acquired wisdom and learned skills and talents are suddenly worthless. Rather than seen as contributors, We be identified as recipients, of pensions, Social Security and programs that are meant to give us meaning. We become a burden.
It is true that as we age, our physicality declines. There is a reason there are no 59 year old football players. It is also true that 75 year olds pull fewer all nighters than 21 year olds.
Of course, that begs certain questions: Is a person's worth and value determined by his or her physicality? Is a persons worth or value determined by how many hours of overtime that can be extracted from him or her? By their ability to recover from jet lag quickly?
What does it say about us as wards of culture where masses of people are swept aside because of their year of birth? What does it say about us as we label people 'less fit; because they were born a decade or two before ourselves? What does these realities say about our values?
There are many who are less physical than they used to be, and at the same time they have accumulated much wisdom and insight. Are those people in decline or have they grown? Do we measure the value of output by quantity or quality?
As we noted earlier, 'a 75 year old can pull fewer all nighters than a 21 year old.' That said, we ahave tp ask ourselves a few more questions: Is the purpose of our existence to pull all nighters? Or are meant to contribute something meaningful and lasting? If we understand that our legacy will be measured in how we left this world a better and more meaningful place, then it becomes immediately apparent that our maturity, wisdom and insight are of far greater value than our physicality. When this truth is realized, the maturity, wisdom and spirituality of those with the experiences of life under their belts more than compensates for their diminished physicality. As our physicality declines, our priorities are reevaluated and ordered- and that usually results in making the four cubits we inhabit and beyond, a better place.