The Myth Of Age-Related Wisdom

First of all, I just want to say that I do not intend to embark on a verbal rampage about how the conception of knowledge and wisdom relating to age is a load of bollocks, however, I do completely intend to attempt to dispell the notion that being aged makes you more knowledgeable and ‘wise’, whatever that means, which is an idea that a lot of people hold and one that, in my experience, few are able and daring enough to challenge.

I know a lot of people, relatives, acquaintances and strangers alike who, despite their differences of personality in their own lives, all seem to hold this viewpoint, that age makes a person more knowledgeable about various things, without any sort of consistent reasoning behind their view. I can’t quite seem to fathom why these otherwise intelligent characters, in their own ways as individuals, appear to default into the above assertion when it is clear that there is no tangible rationalisation or sense of thought process behind it, a result that is the same symptom as why people choose to maintain any kind of belief about any subject- religion, politics, money, to name but a handful of examples- because they are unwilling or cannot be bothered to protest the outdatedness of it. I understand that not everyone in the World has the commodity of free-thought and is able to exercise it without it having a detrimental impact on their life or, the lives of the people they care about. Even living in England, the amount of freedom that an individual has is based on their circumstances and those of their personal situation, but what also cannot be ignored is that governments and regulatory bodies, for example, do possess a disproportionate amount of control over an individual’s life and, if they are willing, they can dictate the outcome, to an extent, of endeavours in a person’s life, particularly if they are not in line with or stand to jeapordise the self-serving interests of someone ‘in power’. At this point I do digress and I am not going to attempt to address this engrossing conversation right now, however, what I am trying to get at is that accepting or choosing to accept a situation or way of thinking is not only naïve, but, in some part, very egotistical, particularly if the ‘wisdom’ is expressed in the vain of trivialising the thoughts of another individual or, to put yourself across as a knowing, enlightened individual, when it is known on a certain scale that you do not exercise or live with that knowledge in mind in your own life. Hypocrisy, in other words, but in a more aggravating form and, this seemingly enlightened attitude really does come across in an unfounded, vacuous way.

The idea of an older person as all-knowing often pertains to the image of a certain type of person in mind- a solitary and, often, tribal individual who has lived in a part of the World where generations of ancestral wisdom has been handed down in the ambience of campfire pow-wows, billowing smoke and heady scents wandering through the air as conversations with other elders in situ arise. A person who leads a simple life, living off the land, sustainably and filling the bodies of themselves and their family with humbly-grown things, living quietly and immaterialistically somewhere high or hidden within an organic landscape, often with a face homing ridges as deep and unknown as the caverns of surrounding mountains. This is not, in essence, a particularly bad image, it is quite soothing even to write about, but it is cringeworthily patronising as so many online memes of ‘wise’ sayings sporting a visual of an unnamed tribal person will express. I suppose these kinds of images are used as they appear to convey a level of gravitas in the mystery surrounding the origins of both the quotations and pictures in question, however, it is exactly the affirmations within them that are sometimes misplaced in their usage, not by their off-the-mark circulation online, but by the people who use them to perpetuate hypocritical attitudes in promotion of themselves and/or the mindset that ‘your elders are always right because they have lived life’. The older person seen as wise, or anything in their lifestyle, may not even resemble or be similar to anything in the former description, however, there is the overwhelming misconception that when a person reaches a certain age, I would say sixty from my overall exposure to this mindset, that they instantly become these mystical, almost mythical fountains of knowledge and wisdom and this, quite simply, is not true.

Not everyone reaches a turning point where they suddenly realise the importance of everything in their life and the importance of life itself, whatever it means to the individual themselves. There are people who will go through life never becoming aware in this way, of how the way they respond to and treat others affects individuals and, the impact it has on their lives and their own in the kind of person that it paints them to be. It is, for some reason, very easy for people to see others through the prescription spectacles of time and the ashen tint of age, thinking that it means something very poignant in the personality of a person because they are numerically older than you. Age does not merely indicate a number: to me, it pertains to the evolution of character and the sageness of spirit and behaviour- you can be a child, for example, and be very wise and knowledgeable in the way you perceive others and react to things, regardless of whether or not people choose to take you seriously because of their own arrogance, but if they choose to dismiss or condescend to you based on your age, then that is not a positive thing at all. There is knowledge that is gained through experience, but kindness, humility and the ability to admit that you are wrong or have made an error in some way, to apologise to someone for hurting them are all examples of wisdom and things that, unfortunately, some people will never learn and may, shockingly, perpetuate attitudes of unkindness and injustice because they are ‘older’, so, apparently, know better in this way.

Respect is something that is also thrown around in vain through people demanding it based on their age to the sole end of filling their ego, consequently making someone else feel small and stifling their right to expression and challenging your views. From what I have seen, most people who use, or abuse, the word ‘respect’ have no understanding of what it means even in the most basic of terms, so to demand it is an entirely different thing as it has to be earned, just like anything else you may claim in entitlement because of your age. To cut a long tale short, an arsehole of twenty can scale up to be an arsehole of eighty; age does not determine how wise you are, but an evolution of spirit and mindset does and, you are certainly not there if you demand this outlook from others, not even close. If somebody uses their age, perceived relationship or status to enforce an attitude onto others without even attempting to apply it in their own life, exercising zero introspection about themselves and the way they treat others, or uses poetic phrases and words to inflict inferiority onto others with the pomposity that it will get them respect or silence the person opposing them, then they are wrong and I have no qualms about expressing this directly to them. Humanity and wisdom, to me, are closely interlinked, so if you cannot strive to treat someone with kindness and understanding as a fellow human being, regardless of whether or not you think they deserve it, then you deserve no accolades on your personality from anyone, especially if you expect and demand and take from people without ever intending to put anything worthwhile and positive back.

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