Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Age and Wisdom in a Chaotic World

You get old(er), but do you become wiser?

I hope this isn't going to be a "think" piece. I don't want to dispense wise aphorisms about age and wisdom. Who would care? At 70 years old I find myself living in a mean-spirited, chaotic world. But at 70 I also realize (my view of history) that it has always been a mean-spirited, chaotic world, although many people fear that it has gotten worse. Those with a short view, a lack of knowledge about history, lack historical perspective and might well think that things have gotten worse.

But there have always been slaves and slave holders—even now; there has always been religious strife and wars fought over religion; there has always been a schism between the rich and poor, and even though many think that the rich today are richer than the rich have ever been also lack perspective. There have always been murderers and thieves and serial killers; there have always been rapists and child abusers and wife beaters and bullies. There have always been puppet masters and puppets, dictators and those who advise them, schemers and the fools who believe them.

In short there has always been the powerful and the powerless, and almost regularly through history there have been revolutions, civil wars, where the powerless rise up in such numbers that their sheer volume is able to overcome the power in the hands of the few.

And above all there has always been fear, throughout history. There are those who embrace change and those who fear it; there have been those who explore and wonder and have adventures and live life while they have it and those who are afraid to live. Fear paralyzes some and causes others to strike out against that which they fear. Galileo was imprisoned because he dared to look through his telescope and the Church pronounced him a witch. Men have been put to death for speaking truth to power, because those in power feared the truth. Fearful men will do evil things. And today, the fearful men are those who have the House, the Senate, and the Presidency, but they fear losing their rich donors more than they fear the wrath of the voters.

The opposite of fear is knowledge and a historical perspective. I've learned that lesson over the course of 70 years, but perhaps also that there are important issues that need to be dealt with and unimportant, petty issues to simply ignore. Maybe it's the force of realization that I'm near the end of my life, whereas when I was a kid I could not conceive of my own death. I'm not afraid to die, even though that's one of things that I know nothing about and can never hope to know. Those who are afraid to die will do anything to stay alive; those who are afraid to grow old will engage in all sorts of regimens to stay young, or at least young looking, like having their faces carved and reshaped, and tucked, and stretched, while ignoring their aging hands; men who will father children in their eighties because they fear growing old. The rich who hoard their money and can never have enough because they fear poverty (or something...who knows?).

But once you realize that the world has always been mean and chaotic and there's nothing to be done on a grand scale to make it less mean and chaotic, you realize that you, the individual, merely has to ensure that you are not mean, you do not live a chaotic life, and you work toward stability within. Think about this. Who fares better, the law-abiding citizen who seeks stability in an unstable world or the criminal who seeks to alleviate his/her own fear by stepping into the chaos with guns and knives? Who fares better, the person willing to accept and understand others who might be of a different religion, ethnicity, sexuality or the person who fears those who are different? Those who fear and act on their fear are those who grab arsenals of weapons and jump into the chaos. Who fares better, the man or woman who carries a gun or those who leave their weapons at home? Those who look to others to fulfill their needs or those who seek to be self-reliant? Those who only want to work for wages or those who try their hand at creating a business?

The secret is to be self-reliant, calm within, friendly to those who are different, respectful of anyone who comes into your life, judicious with all things, fair in all dealings, educated to the best of your ability, whether formally or self-taught. Moderate in all things, even entertainment, though fearful at times does not let fear rule.

No comments:

Post a Comment