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There’s a meme about the wisdom of the elderly. The wise old man or woman character is so wide-spread that it’s become a cliché. How often do you hear someone called a wise young man or woman? Practically never and when you do it usually means that he/she is pedantic and a bloody bore. Did any cartoonist ever put a wise young man on a mountaintop? Has there ever been a depiction of a shaman just dripping wisdom from his mid-twenties frame? Were the leaders of a tribe or sect ever called “the youngers?” You get the point.

Well, as I age, I can tell you it’s all true. I keep getting wiser and smarter and understand the vagaries of life so much better than I did before. At least I’ve convinced myself that I do – which is pretty much the same thing because a lot of this wisdom thing is persuading others that you’re wise. When they buy it and treat you that way, you are.

But deeper analysis is called for here, as a truly wise one would say…. So I’ve been giving this idea a bit of a toss around in my head and I’ve come up with something that I haven’t seen before.

We get wiser when we get older because a lot of other stuff that used to get in the way of wisdom goes away.

Sex drive drops. In fact, sex becomes something amusing, to be viewed from afar, a game that others play, that we guys used to play and used to play with such abandon that we used to, to use another cliché, think with our dicks. Oh, it’s not that us geezers don’t enjoy a roll in the hay from time to time, it’s just that it becomes something to be enjoyed when you happen upon it, kind of like a surprise when a crab cake actually tastes like crab. The point is that so much of how we wise old dudes interact with people, particularly those of the gender we find attractive, takes on a more reasonable air. I still look down a plunging neckline but I’m enjoying it more like a Rodin statue and less like a handful of clay to be molded. With these interfering factors pushed off the stage by diving testosterone levels and drooping penises we suddenly discover that we are a lot smarter socially and interpersonally than we used to be. We may be, we may not be, but it’s pretty clear that we’ve gotten rid of the noise that used to blanket reason.[1]

Competition is less important. The drive to win every confrontation goes the way of the stiff dick. It doesn’t matter that much anymore. But it’s like sex. It isn’t that we don’t like a good tiff from time to time and, for those of us who play poker, we’re still aggressive and tough old bastards at the tables, it’s just that winning and losing aren’t as important as they used to be. And, voila, the door to acceptance opens. We see ‘the other’ not as a thing to be conquered but as another critter struggling with life and circumstance like we are. We lose our fighting edge but we gain in empathy, in understanding, in acceptance. We become much wiser.

And so it goes…. We’re less angry and see the virtues of other’s ideas. We’re a little slower on the uptake so we have more time to sense the richness of another perspective. We’re less prone to jump to conclusions, so we don’t. We don’t move as fast so we have more time to see and appreciate what’s going on around us.

I am enjoying getting old so much it both frightens and fascinates. I am swimming in wisdom – I kinda wish all those young folks would just slow down and take notice.


[1] I’m writing this from a heterosexual, male perspective, obviously. I have no doubt that others of other orientations have their own versions of how they age. Feel free to substitute any other organs or objects of interest.

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