Remember our last chat? Dentists, last molars, wisdom. Does it ring a bell? In case you’re interested, I had my wisdom tooth examined, in the meantime. The pain has subsided somewhat, though I still feel minor irritation which I’ve been told can be relieved by rinsing with warm salt water (1/2 teaspoon of salt in 200 grams of water (7 ounces )). However, having medical doctors as parents has obviously marked me for life so I just prefer good old over-the-counter pain meds to alternative medicine. Anyway, we leave my tooth for now (does it mean I’ll be wiser?) and if it keeps causing lots of pain, gets infected or interferes with nearby teeth, the usual treatment is no treatment. We basically take it out. Please note that I have to be in great pain. If not, we don’t have a deal.
Now, the million dollar question was: Does age equal wisdom?
When I was younger, I looked up to the elderly. Like all youths, I was often at odds with my parents in my teens and since they were not what I’d call my real role models, my grandparents, uncles, and some teachers certainly were. Back then, I thought that when I came of age, I would, like all adults, magically know all the answers to life and that everything would suddenly start making sense. What a worrying and sad realization when it didn’t. Naturally, I didn’t automatically learn how to handle problems and conflicts nor was there a moment of clarity where everything turned intelligible. Although I had a few tricks up my sleeve, truth be told, I wished I had more.
During a Pentagon news briefing in 2002, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld talked about the lack of evidence linking the government of Iraq with the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups. So let’s put aside my subjectivity and what I really think about the guy and concentrate on what he stated on this occasion:
‘As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.’ I would add that this could be applied to both our professional and personal life. The only thing I know for sure is that I really know nothing.
I watch my son grow, I teach him, he learns but the real question is: Who is the teacher here? I like to think I don’t teach him but, as Einstein put it nicely, provide the conditions in which he can learn. While he learns understanding of concepts, all the activities he engages in, whether self-motivated or not, whether goal-oriented or not, are done with sheer pleasure and enjoyment. At this age level, even when he uses gestures such as pointing rather than naming things, his language is clear and comprehensible. By contrast, adults frequently fail to deliver an accurate message and are unable to express opinions precisely or verbalize real feelings. Additionally, while we enable children to be more active participants in life, we often turn into passive observers ourselves. It seems we still have a lot to learn. Sometimes I feel I know so little, despite formal and continuing education and the books read. I know for sure I should have more money coming in than going out and that I shouldn’t wear flip-flops and tank tops showing my cleavage and belly to a job interview and that’s about it. So many known unknowns, and God knows how many unknown unknowns there are.
Now, back to folks in later life. I mean later. Over 70 (i.e. septuagenarians, octogenarians, and nonagenarians and centenarians if they are still around). Science has proven that older people develop greater insight and are less likely to be hot-headed although their brain slows down with age (source: Daily Mail). According to a study, as opposed to young people’s brain which is driven by the chemicals fueling emotion and impulse, the aging brain is less dopamine-dependent. Therefore, slower responses of the elderly result in thoughtfulness and wiser judgments.
Since I hate generalizations, I’d say some of them because others are equally stubborn at a late age and not so perceptive as expected. Negative feelings and relationships, when nourished for a long time, harden our hearts, which is why some people continue holding a grudge or engaging in fiery quarrels till death do them part. Yes, the gray-haired might too pull a boner as if their experience hasn’t taught them a thing.
The point I’m trying to make is that we can’t and shouldn’t discredit someone just because they’re young but we cannot call them wise either. Their understanding of the world simply shows a different level of understanding. The bottom line is we can grasp some things only at a certain age. Wisdom comes (should come) in the maturity of old age when the immense experience and knowledge acquired throughout life leads (mostly…hm…sometimes) to good judgment. I’d like to think positively for once in my life and this is the most positive you’ll get from me. I retain the right to remain skeptical though.
I believe that people of different age groups could and should learn from one another. I am constantly learning from both my two-year old son, things I’ve forgotten or haven’t known I possess, and the elderly, things I have yet to learn. I need both in my life. Maybe that’s why I have friends from different walks of life and of different age groups. Without them I am like asentencewithoutspaces.