The Waste Of Wisdom

I swear, if I have to bite my tongue ONE MORE TIME I'm pretty sure I'll bleed out and die.

Many of us are in our 50s. I dreaded this age when I was young -- it seemed positively ancient. The 60s seemed even worse -- I knew the very day I turned 60 I would immediately be wearing a muumuu, like my grandmother, be far too heavy (that's actually already a problem), and sit around drinking Postum (the Mormon version of coffee, at least back in the day). I was going to actually turn INTO my grandmother. The 50s and 60s looked very bad indeed.

I will be 54 this year and, strangely, I still feel like ... me. I know I'm older, and some days I certainly feel older, but, overall, I'm still me. Even stranger, I like being in my 50s. I might actually love it. After countless life experiences, painful journeys, and a laser-focused determination to become as self-actualized as possible, I finally accept myself. Sans muumuu -- there's a limit.

I've learned a great deal, but there is much more to learn and I'm determined to do so. I am fascinated by the human condition and the forces influencing us. Many people have so much more knowledge than I do and I make a concerted effort to pick their brain and see what I can gain from their years of experience. It is a joyful journey of self-discovery and learning about the world around us. Knowledge is power, and wisdom is rare and beautiful.

But here's the rub.

No one asks us. Mostly no one, anyway. Many people have been deeply conditioned to believe they already have the answers -- all of the answers, and from a young age too. The entitlement attitude has become obscene, and the wresting of power from revered elders to young upstarts is nearly complete. Does it sound fuddy-duddy-like to claim something that sounds suspiciously like "You snotty-nosed kids think you know it all!"? I suppose it does, but, oftentimes, that which is trite is because it is true. We DO know. Not all of it, but enough -- enough to be of genuine help to the younger generations. And, we want to help, badly. So badly it almost hurts sometimes.

They don't ask, though. Even if they did there would often be retribution -- killing the proverbial messenger. Some young people are smart enough to ask, genuinely listen, and gain from the wisdom being shared, and we love that. Too often, though, it is expected that we are to shut up and keep our thoughts to ourselves. Why is that? How did we get to a place where we are shoved aside so completely?

Most of us are parents. We didn't hatch to be 50 -- we really did live, oftentimes, with almost no money, with little help raising our families, and with all the joys and trials of being young parents. We cleaned up the throw-up, cheered at soccer games, signed permission slips, nearly passed out when it was time for school vaccinations, helped make science projects at 1:00 a.m., stuffed Christmas stockings in our room before the big day, mourned lost opportunities, tended scraped knees, cried, rejoiced, got ready to roll up our sleeves and wade into fisticuffs with people who were ignorant to our children, deposited paychecks, staggered around in a sleepless fog, laughed at jokes that made no sense, and marveled at the beauty of the small people who shared our homes with us for so many years. We learned so much, made so many mistakes, and, now, look back and wonder where the time went.

And I have to wonder why ... why does the younger generation fear asking us what they can learn? Many are almost hostile to the idea. We see young parents treating their children harshly and it breaks our hearts. We witness marriages in turmoil and can often see some solutions that will ease the pain and frustration. We see behaviors chosen and actions undertaken that make little or no sense, and we grieve. We don't know everything, but we've learned enough to provide valuable insights -- we love sharing what we know and seeing it put into action with no fear of reprisal.

What an amazing experience it would be to have a young parent ask how they could be a better parent, and then not punish us for insinuating they aren't doing a good job. What happiness we would feel if advice was actually sought out, and the wisdom provided used and built upon. What could we learn if we sought out our veterans and other seniors and just ... ask -- ask what they know, ask about their story, ask what they regret, what was funny in their life, what drove them nuts. Most young people are good individuals and most young parents are doing well, but, too often, the hard-won experiences of their parents and grandparents are going to waste. Feelings are too easily hurt and offense is often quickly taken.

So, what value is there in learning? I know I cannot stop learning -- it drives everything I do. Many are like me. Fundamentally it is a fulfilling, enlightening journey we only stand to gain from. But, when we cannot pass down what our lives have shown us we feel marginalized and invisible. In this day and age, where power, corruption, and self-interest often force us to subsume our individuality to those in control, it seems as though the quiet, solid, hard-won wisdom from long and diverse lives could make astonishing differences in family units, communities, and state and national political and financial scenes. The quick fix, the instant gratification and over-confident assurance, rules the day while decades of observing, writing, thinking, suffering, laughing, pondering, watching, reading, and discussing aren't tapped for their intrinsic value.

Some ask. Thank you. We appreciate it more than you know. We wish more people would follow suit. Try us out -- you might be surprised.

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