EVERY AGE HAS ITS WISDOM
All equally unique and equally important
I’ve been thinking recently about generations. I heard a rabbi say that every generation has its own wisdom. I can see that. Its own challenges and its own wisdom. It’s own unique slant on things. Its own pain and its own story to tell.
As with being a woman, or a man, or a white person, or a Black person, or a gay person, or a straight person, or non-binary, or anything else, there’s a particular view of things you can have from within a system that no one else can have. That’s why each of us must find the wisdom and seek to be the voice of our own time and place and ethnicity and culture. Life is like an amazing kaleidoscope in which every color, every pattern, every shape is part of a larger whole that would be lacking were there to be any piece missing. Blue’s job isn’t to tell green how to be green. Blue’s job is to be the most beautiful shade of blue it can possibly be.
Being a boomer, until several years ago I always saw my generation in relation to the ones that came before it. Now, however, with millennials and gen x and gen z assuming their roles in the ferris wheel of generational change, I see my generation as much in relation to those who came after us as to those who came before. I remember my mother once saying to me, “You know, however old you are you’ve been the ages that went before.” It’s fascinating watching younger people and thinking things like, “Oh, that’s how they do 25 now!”
Every generation has a rambunctious way of arriving on the scene with a huge shout of “We’re heeere!” — thinking that now at last the world will get things right! It’s a gift of nature that we do think that, because if the full realities of life dawned on you when you were young then you might not be able to carry the full weight of knowing how hard the world will try to break you. Disappointments will follow, no matter who you are, and finally, acceptance. Then, in ways I couldn’t have expected when I was younger, comes power.
It’s important to respect those who are older than us, and it’s important to respect those who are younger as well. All of us are eternal beings who on some deeper level are only headquartered in this body for a while. Every soul is peering out into the world from a deeper place, an inner dimension, only here for a short time in order to help in whatever way we can.
When I was in my twenties and a new student of A Course in Miracles, I was living with my friend Jeff in an apartment on West 64th Street in New York City. We had been talking about our experience reading the Course and how the material was blowing our minds. It was evening and I was standing in our little living room, which now that I come to think of it was also the bedroom. I had a flash, one of those blinding moments when your mind fills with the light of some knowing, and I turned to him and said, “I think I could explain this to my generation.” It would be years before that moment took shape in any form that one would call a “career,” but I have always seen it as the beginning of my professional journey. In that moment I knew something. Some light came in and it has guided me for years.
It’s interesting to me watching younger people - some younger than me, but not really anymore what you would call young - find their way of expressing truths in accordance with their own generational experience. I had a searing sense of what I wanted to say as a younger woman, and I have an increasingly strong sense of what I want to say as an older woman too. The issues of vanity aside, getting older is its own kind of mysterious glory. Still part of the kaleidoscope, still part of the design, the story of the elder is as important as the story of the young.
In the words of Hemingway, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” To me, that’s the meaning of age. Not getting weaker, but getting stronger. Having been humbled, coming out of the experience honed and ready for whatever comes next. There’s a fearlessness to youth, and there can be a fearlessness to age as well. Every person and every generation has the right to live out its story, find its wisdom, and hopefully share what it’s learned. No matter how old we are, our story is important and our wisdom is unique. As long as we’re here, we’re a color in the kaleidoscope and the world would be less without us. The rambunctiousness of youth is alchemized into something else as we grow older, but it’s just as important and just as beautiful. Looking in the mirror at times, I wish that I was younger. But looking into my soul, I’m so glad I’m where I am.
You are and have been so beautiful, Marianne--a treasure of our generation.