I woke up this morning, after some yucky dreams, reflecting on aging and getting old. I have had the very real pleasure of spending almost two weeks with some people who are fifteen years and older than me, people of my parent’s generation. Collective wisdom in bucket loads. Completely inspiring.
Here, in Asia, generally, older family members are celebrated and nurtured. A very real understanding exists regarding the use and relevance of the wisdom of an aging generation. Something that I do not believe is valued in western culture. Definitely not to the extent that I believe it should be.
Val and I had lunch at a local restaurant here. It is across from the hotel (Sunrise Resort) here in Hoi An, and it is simply called Simple. It is owned by a young woman, just starting, who cooks beautiful food. We ate as a group there last night and rebooked for tonight.
Anyway, the young girl who manages or owns the spa next door and helps out the owner of the restaurant, was ducking off to check in on her father who is dying from cancer. She then came back to continue working. There was/is a nobility in her attitude that I don’t see as often in Australia.
Val and I then discussed death and nursing homes and retirement villages. My dad and I had discussed the importance of purpose and feeling useful before I left for Kampuchea. How easy it becomes to feel overlooked and uninspired when we feel we serve no purpose to anyone, and are just waiting to die. Val recently lost her husband, misses him, but feels the need to keep moving forward. Here, in Asia, we have been told repeatedly how the elderly teach the young their ways. Old wisdom and understanding works in partnership with youthful vigour, and society progresses.
In education, I don’t see this sort of reverence for older workers. As a result, older teachers become cynical about the system and vital corporate knowledge is sacrificed. Younger teachers are regarded as treasures and opportunities are piled onto them, suffocatingly, because they are not given the time to adequately hone the craft of teaching itself. They end up burnt out or not very accomplished where it counts, in the classroom.
Western culture reveres the ‘purity’ and ‘naïveté’ of youth above the wisdom of the old, to its detriment.
I have met many women who become infinitely more beautiful as they age. I am one of them.
There is magick in the lines in a wizened face; a majesty of experience, knowledge, pain and happiness, never seen in the young who have not had the time necessary to experience the rich tapestry of life.
There is truth in the words of the old; consideration, reflection, wisdom and understanding, never seen in the young. Again, because the young have not had the time to experience all that life can offer.
There is the real compassion that comes from surviving much pain, and the confidence to share stories to empower and inspire the young. To reach out a hand, to give a hug, to truly heart connect with others. The young have not survived enough yet to feel the conviction that survival brings.
There is the truth of life reflected in many different ways of choosing how to live, and honesty even in the shortness of impatience that we can all learn from.
Wisdom, real wisdom, comes from the many experiences that a long life has had access to. It comes from the time taken to experience and process life’s many realities and extremes.
Older people don’t care so much how others view them, even though they are often invisible, and with that comes freedom, a real freedom. Unseen, we can really embrace every second, uncensored. There is an honesty and rich authenticity in this. A freshness that youthful vigour does not, cannot, possess.
Aging is beautiful. It is rich. It is empowering. We need to learn from the older ones so that we do not lose their collective wisdom, and so that we can forge a better world in years and for generations to come.