Wednesday, January 28, 2015

"The Wisdom Of Age"

“I have come to believe…”

An aging person is about to deliver a personal perspective, culled, it would be imagined, or so the speaker subliminally implies, from the experiential consequences of living numerous decades on this planet.

This is hardly an exhilarating method of beginning a sentence.  The listener does not, of course, know what’s coming next, but the annoying preamble tellingly suggests that they are about to be lectured.  A “life lesson” will be imminently imparted.  The most desirable location when you are about to receive unquestionably illuminating “Words of Wisdom”?

Somewhere else.     

My response to that wheezy windup became tempered by compassion when I realized that the mouth the words “I have come to believe” had come out of was my own.

“I have come to believe…” was my opening salvo.  Only in retrospect do I recognize – and embarrassingly acknowledge – its pomposity.

You want to believe you have learned something from being around for a while.  Otherwise, aging is simply a matter of hair loss, receding gum-lines and those adorable brown spots on the backs of your hands. 

Note:  I recently read somewhere that historically, though not all that far back, especially in places like China, there were people who would deliberately lie their age “up” – and I am not talking about teenagers seeking access to forbidden movies – in order to accelerate the moment of respect and admiration, dutifully accorded to their “venerability.”  Can you imagine?


“Sixty, uh, seventy-seven.”

“You look really good.”

“Thank you.”

“What’s your secret?”

“You lie about your age.”

“Ah, so.  Very wise.”

Who knows?  Maybe there was never a correlation between wisdom and old age.  Maybe that was just a clever stratagem to get a seat on the bus or get somebody else to carry your groceries.  It is possible, however, that in certain cultures – where they did not roll out a new Iphone every twenty minutes – the relative, unchanging nature of conditions gave “The Wisdom of Experience” legitimate value. 

That’s an unusual wind we’re experiencing?”

“Quick!  Come inside!”

“But why, Ancient One?”

“That ‘unusual’ wind means locusts!

That’s a good thing good to know. 

If you don’t want to be covered with locusts.

The tradition, although less pervasive than it once was, prevails.  And so, when they are willing to put up with it, the young, or young-er – though if there’s nobody else around, the contemporaneous will do just as well – might find themselves the ungrateful recipients of a windy discourse, delivered by some voluble “elder statesman” with less wisdom perhaps than a little too much time on their hands.

Having said that…get ready…

I have come to believe – though I did not when I was scrambling desperately for show business success or at least survival – that there is a genuine satisfaction to the virtually forgotten principle of “enough.”

“‘Virtually forgotten’ by whom?”

Please.  I am eloquently – meaning there’ll be some “artistic license” involved – pontificating.  Your interrupting will merely derail my train of thought.  Plus, it is seriously disrespectful to the elderly.

Okay.  In the film Whiplash, which I evaluated a while back, the protagonist/drummer committed to becoming preeminent in his profession was willing to sacrifice everything in the service of that objective.

That intention is the opposite of “enough.” 

My late-blooming illumination – of at least “another way to go” – was inspired by this fitness place that we go to in Mexico (to which I shall shortly be decamping during the second week of February.) 
The fitness place’s adherence to “portion control” introduced me to “enough.”  A perspective I then transplanted to every aspect of my life.

Enough wardrobe.  Enough vacations.  Enough net worth.  Enough sitting in the sun.

A slice of birthday cake?  Of course.  But when you triangulate the slice size? 

“Just enough.”

I realize this idea is a disaster for the economy.  If everyone accepts the mantra of  “enough” and its reliable first cousin “good enough”, the capitalist system would come crashing to its knees. 

“I’ve got enough purses.”

“Harry, file for ‘Chapter Eleven.’  We’re going out of business.”

The economy, however, is not really my problem.  I am just trying to live, well…a “good enough” life.

And so far, it’s working.  I feel less envy.  Less regret. 

I lost forty-two pounds in just ten days!

I know how it sounds – like a testimonial for “enough.”  But I swear to you, there is a palpable feeling of wellbeing when you hit the target “dead center.”  The way others – Donald Trump springs immediately to mind – feel “alive” when they are striving for “more”?  I feel equally successful consuming “just the right amount.”  

My dinner may appear uneaten.  But a moment occurs – I can viscerally sense it – when a voice from within tells me,  “Put down the cutlery.  You’re done.”  And when I listen to that voice, I feel, not “stuffed”, but gastronomically in tune.

He droned on, extremely boringly.

Okay – the “opposing perspective” paragraph.  “Enough” is a chicken heart’s perspective, a tin-plated “Consolation Prize” for underachievers, lacking the guts and gumption to “Go for the Gold!”

A “rationalization for mediocrity”?  Perhaps.  But, to me, “enough” is a satisfying objective. 

Is it the Path To Everlasting Happiness and Contentment? 

Who knows?

It may just be what I have come to believe.

1 comment:

Wendy M. Grossman said...

The only two people I've known in my life who lied about their age have both been men. One of them, a Scottish folksinger, definitely did add five years to his age because he thought he would command more respect that way. (He was an alcoholic, and died at 52, so he really didn't get a chance to be old enough to be properly wise.)