“Wisdom…. Comes Not From Age But From Education And Learning”Anton Chekhov
It’s a common stereotype that old people are wise and the young are foolish. The prodigal son and wise old man tropes, in books, movies, tv shows and even religious texts have reinforced this belief. But how much truth do these beliefs hold?
Practical wisdom of course, comes from experience. As they say, life is a school and experience is the best teacher. So, yes, experienced people do understand the world more, but they are also more rigid. They are fixed in their beliefs, which harden due to experience, and refuse to let go of redundant ones. They rarely discard previously formed notions of the world, which gives a considerable advantage to youngsters, who are full of novelty. The inexperience of young people can also be a boon – they are more open to knowledge, more receptive and in fact more empty to contain it.
Secondly, life rarely repeats itself. The answer that one situation demands will never be the same to what another situation demands, because they are divorced by time and space. Thus, dealing with different solutions wisely requires letting go of past beliefs and using all resources to make the most of the situation at hand. This is something that youngsters excel at, due to adaptation being simpler while young. On the other hand, old people take a long time to adapt and mould themselves into the requirements of a situation.
Thirdly, age is just a passing of years. Wisdom is not guaranteed by the quantity of those years but their quality. What really matters is what you have filled those years with. If you stay inside the house watching television and interacting with three people, working the bare minimum to earn a livelihood, how can you become wise? At the same time, if you have lived for a short while, but have lived intensely, you might just become wise. Seeing the world, experiencing it in its entirety, fining novel ways to learn novel things are just some of the things that make people wise. And none of these have anything to do with age.
Eric Erikson was a great developmental psychologist who defined wisdom in a beautiful way. He said that wisdom was a detached understanding of life itself in the face of death itself. The word detached has significance – wisdom requires you to remove yourself from the situation and think of it holistically. You cannot do this if you are a part of the situation. The understanding of life, which he describes, is the essence of wisdom. But the last part of his definition is what I don’t agree with, though it sounds very poetic. Why does this understanding of life have to come ‘in the face of death’? it is all to possible that with a combination of learning, education, knowledge and experience, it may be achieved at a young age.
The next aspect I would like to put forward is the role that education plays in wisdom. One may say that education is usually theoretical, it has no practical or worldly education, but I beg to differ. Education might just be the most important aspect of wisdom. And that is because education, more than teaching you facts of life, teaches you how to think. Education is important because it gives us the tools with which to approach a situation and solve it. It builds our analytical, problem solving, rational and even intuitive thinking abilities. And to be wise, a sound reasoning ability is crucial.
So, don’t wait for old age to bring you wisdom – set out to live your life intensely and fully and it shall come to you. Be vibrant in your quest for knowledge and wisdom shall be yours.