Home Articles Aging Wisdom in Later Life

RSS Syndication

Subscribe to my RSS Feed!
feed image


Wisdom in Later Life PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, May 21 2014 08:39

             Does old age bring wisdom?

            I tend to think of this question as limited to gerontology professors.  Most elders known to me do not spend their time wondering if they are wise.

             However, the question has worth if we use it to think about the good things in our lives. It can help us to recognize the rich gifts that make us valuable.

To think about this subject, I find it helpful to start with a person I consider to have been clearly wise. Among the people whom I recognize as gifted with wisdom, I think especially of my friend Robert Bullock.

A classmate of mine in high school, Bob later became a priest and a distinguished and beloved pastor. To my continuing sorrow, he died almost ten years ago at age 75.

            As I look back to our high school days, I remember him as a good friend and a fine third baseman on our baseball team. Academically, he was reliable and diligent, though he was not considered especially brilliant.

            However, though we did not realize it at the time, he was laying the foundation for a remarkable lifetime of learning and serving others.

            As his brother said of him, “he was wise with a wisdom that cannot be taught and that only a few develop to its full capacity. He could see farther and deeper than most because of a finely tuned 20/20 moral vision.”

            So should wisdom be associated with later life? Rather I tend to think it comes from a whole lifetime of growing, the way it did with my friend Bob.

            He did not have to live beyond age 75 to have become more than ordinarily wise.  We would have recognized this in him at a much earlier age.

            When I think about wisdom in my own life it seems to me difficult to judge.  But here are some of the interior issues that speak to me.

            I live in a community loaded with smart people.  Academics galore frequent my daily path.  One of my neighbors, a college classmate, won the Nobel Prize this year.             

            Does that mean I should envy people who appear smarter than I? Should I ask myself such questions as: Why did I not become a better writer?  Why are some of my friends so much more widely published than I?

            A wiser view of later life suggests that questions of this sort are false and misleading. Instead it makes much more sense to accept ourselves for who and what we are.

            Wisdom requires being wary of comparisons with other people. Doing what I can reasonably accomplish is enough. Wisdom makes me refuse to establish standards based on other lives.

            These are the benefits of self-acceptance. Instead of envying others for their accomplishments, wisdom suggests the benefits of admiring the good things achieved by others.

            In my wiser moments, I realize how it can bring me pleasure to see friends and acquaintances excelling in their work. And because I know many people who are good marriage partners or fine parents, my own life is buoyed up. 

            This thinking may help us to evaluate more highly what we have done in our own lives. And this appears to be the path to wisdom. Let me admire others for their virtues and value myself for the good I can credit to myself.

I do believe that living long gives us the precious opportunity to think more highly of ourselves.  We may be able to use these years to appreciate ourselves, not only for what we have accomplished, but also for who we have become.