“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” ~ Abraham Lincoln.
It was once said that wisdom comes with age, but I very much doubt that this is true. In my short time on this planet, I have encountered enough ignorant and egocentric people to understand that these two unflattering character traits do not discriminate on the basis of age, which after all is just a numerical label which fails to get at the heart of who we are, and what we are capable of expressing at any moment in time. Wisdom, in this respect, emerges from a realm that is deeper than the physical stage of life that we occupy. In essence, this source of wisdom is the spiritual basis of life, and by living in a way that aligns with spirit, we will be capable of embodying wisdom in tangible ways. Even children, who often do a better job of remaining true to their essence, can be great teachers of wisdom if we care to be receptive to their lessons.
Being inclined to believe that old age holds the answer to life’s problems, we assume that learning is automatic, when in actuality it is not. Learning is a choice and it will be something that we naturally gravitate to when we allow our innate curiosity to take hold. On this point, one of the prominent findings from my research was that individuals who are living their calling and aligned with their spirit in that process demonstrated the trait of continuous learning. An intrinsic part of life is the learning opportunities that it affords, but ultimately the decision of whether we learn or not is up to us.
Possessed of the free will to evolve and allow wisdom to move through us, it is not a given that we will choose to embody it at any time, let alone in old age. While it is nice to think that we grow more receptive to learning the older that we get, it is just not true. Often, the older people that we encounter are stubborn and rigid to the point where they find it difficult to entertain the possibility that someone who is younger in years is acquainted with a truth/truths that they have not encountered yet. Themselves victims of this ‘wisdom comes with age’ fallacy, it is the comforting position that they adopt under the direction of the frail ego, which prefers to believe that which affirms its own righteous identity, and not expose the agent to a learning situation that would require them to be truly vulnerable.
Learning requires great courage and humility (also qualities that my research found are emblematic of spirit), and if we don’t allow these virtues to guide our evolution, then we will find ourselves living in old age with the same mindset that we had in our younger years. For the mind to expand, it must be fed on a continual basis. Only by doing this do we ensure that our experience of the years ahead will be richer than those that we have already lived. Why a great many people get bored and disillusioned with life as they become older is because they have stopped growing, and as a consequence they are essentially living the same year over and over again.
This experience is much different from continuously learning on a day to day basis, which has the effect of compounding our personal growth. Like an interest amount that increases with every dollar that we add to our bank account, the quality of our life increases in proportion to the amount of learning that we agree to undertake. Whether it takes the form of education or new experiences, we strengthen our capacity for insight into the nature of the world, and ultimately ourselves, every time that we move to ask new questions of life.
It is when we are comfortable staring into the abyss of consciousness that wisdom comes alive. Presenting profound answers to the questions that we have asked with intentionality, it works alongside the gaining of knowledge to round out our understanding of life. Grey hairs or not, we will struggle to find all of the answers because our time in this world is just too short. Despite this reality, I still believe it to be a wonderful thing that in any moment, we can lose ourselves in the mystery of life and allow wisdom to come forth. A manifestation of our being in the here and now, it is not time that it needs to speak, but a heart that is open and willing to liberate the spirit that it houses.