I turned 50 yesterday so I will find a way to tie in what I want to say with the wisdom of such a long life. *cough*
The question was asked on a free write for Lit, “What makes a person good and why?” This was in context of the book we were to read the previous week, The Analects, which, if you don’t know, is by Confucius.
I will admit to being quite disappointed in the book at first. I was expecting all sorts of crazy anti-biblical teachings in it. I mean, the way most Christians talk about reading anything from anyone other than their personally chosen few, I kinda thought I’d find a road-map to hell. Sadly, Confucius seemed to hang in the same circles as the writer of Proverbs. Which is to say, the author is concerned with the moral behavior of the people of the land and so he picked out a bunch of pithy sayings he agrees with and wants passed around as law. That is also a short summary of every religious text ever written. A little two-for-one for you. You’re welcome.
But what does make a person good? And why do I think that? The first thought that went through my head was that I could write an essay on the subject because a 15-minute free write was not going to give me time to get into the complexities and the nuances of the matter. Most people felt the same.
If this had been an assignment, our professor would have ended up with 25 different essays. Sure, some might have had a few similarities, but, since we are not living in a regime like North Korea, much to Trump’s disappointment, the reasons why would have at least been broad.
I wrote down some stuff I try to teach the kids about being good people, but I really didn’t think there was any way to explain it. A lot of people in the class were young enough to think you could just be nice to everyone even if they treated you poorly and that made you good. (As an aside, I had planned to say nothing that day because I was very tired, but that comment got me talking, of course.)
What is good changes as we grow, as we experience life, as we watch and learn. What many of the young people thought was good, I had also thought at that age. And I began to realize, that what I think is good now is going to change and by the time I turn 60, it will be a different answer.
There is no wisdom of ages. I am no more intelligent and insightful than my 20 year old classmates. They all have the same potential for understanding. Some of us use it and some of us don’t. It has nothing to do with age. It has to do with circumstance and whether or not today I will allow myself to grow. I might not. I might decide that I am going to hold on to my beliefs in whatever regardless of the facts staring me right in the face.
Confucius would not like this philosophy. Most ancient texts are opposed to the belief that the young might have more wisdom than the old. (Rome was an exception, but they just liked young people who were strong and could kill others…bullies are not usually wise.)
As we watch our world fall apart and our government continue to rip our freedom from our hands, we would do well to recall that clinging to the past wisdom is what got us where we are. Maybe it’s time to stop assuming that an older person necessarily knows any more than a young one.