Thursday, November 18, 2004

Respecting your Elders

Last night, I had the distinct honor to speak with a retired LAPD officer named Leon Mann. Quite the raconteur, he held court for several hours, sharing stories and dishing out advice. The lessons he had to impart to me and my friends about personal safety were many -- hard earned from his years as a cop, I'm sure. Later on, I thought back to how effortlessly and thoroughly he relayed his advice, and came to the conclusion that not only were those words spoken from experience, they were also words spoken with a fair amount of wisdom behind them -- something that can really only come with time and age.

Which is not to say that young people don't possess wisdom -- some are described as "wise beyond their years," and even at the relatively young and naive age of 24, I can already look back on my short life and say "if only I knew a few years ago what I know now -- what a difference that would have made." But I believe that only that roughhewn wisdom, that unshakable confidence and stance in life can only come simply through having truly lived. Through the mistakes, the heartaches, the low times -- those times that inspire the greatest amounts of reflection and soul-searching.

I would much rather be led by an old man who possesses dignity and wisdom than a young brash man (or woman) who simply knows how to say the right thing to come off well.

Unfortunately, I have very few people of this age in my life, save my parents (though, they're quite wise as well). If you're one lucky enough to have such great influences in your life, take advantage of them, respect them, cherish them. I hope when I'm that age (Lord willing), I'll be looked upon the same way.


At 8:57 AM, Blogger Simon said...

Hi Suze, thanks for that post. It helps to get some perspective on life; sometimes life is so frantic that it feels like we don't have much time to do anything. It brings an artificial sense of urgency to the important things in life.

I don't have many older people in my life (save my mum), but am enjoying reading a mixture of older and newer books. It's kinda cheating, because I can't have a discussion with a book, but I can take in the author's perspective.

One of my favourites at the moment is "From Dawn to Decadence" written by Jacques Barzun who was born in 1907 and (as far as I know) is still alive. He wrote it in 2000, so the book has an extraordinary sense of bigness.

Next year I hit the big milestone of 30 years old. While my peers recoil in horror from the sight of gray hair, I'm looking at my gray hairs with pride (I've got quite a few now!) because of the old proverb that says grey hair is a crown of wisdom.

(Having said that, I've met several older people who amaze me by their lack of wisdom and common sense. I'd like to hope they were the exception, not the rule :)

At 6:16 AM, Blogger M@ said...

Simon and I are near the same age, and I think in a similar situation. There have been a few people in my career whom I've looked up to, but it is truly an exception when the person I look up to is significantly younger than me.

This discussion reminds me of an experience I had last winter. I saw a mall display where a nine-year-old was playing a dozen or so games of chess at once. I sat down and he whipped me, just utterly destroyed me, in about twenty moves. (I'm not a great chess player but there are few nine-year-olds who beat me regularly.) Do I look up to him? No. He is clearly a brilliant chess player, and I would love to get the chance to talk to him. But -- and this sounds patronizing -- I don't expect he is "wise", even as a chess player. (His teacher, however, I would expect to be.)

I agree, too, that few older people are extremely wise. Perhaps the saying "with age comes wisdom" should be "wisdom doesn't come without age".


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