Several months ago, I traveled to Amsterdam. I have wanted to visit Amsterdam since I was young. Amsterdam is a city for the young. The coffee shops and streets are filled with young people, the sweet smell of pot smoke fills the air, young people ride their bikes over the canals, tall, slender buildings with old, old apartments, home to young people, line the streets. As I walked on the streets and over the canals of Amsterdam, I felt a kind of longing. I felt that longing to be young that comes to me from time to time in this time of my life.
To be young – the longing is a mixed longing, to be sure. My longing in Amsterdam was quickly met with the memory of what is was to be young. My longing was met with the reality of all those lonely days and nights, those meaningless times, those struggles to be true to myself. That’s what it means to be young, after all. No, I don’t miss being young.
It’s a cliche to say that we are a culture obsessed with youth. Images of perfectly made up, skinny movie stars, forever young, come to mind. Internet headlines boast: “she still looks good, at 42!” Buy this car, and you’ll be young again. Eat right, and you’ll never get old. Stay healthy, and you’ll never die.
All of these are not true. I know that now. But I also know that I once believed them, if I’m honest.
Why not wisdom? As the politics of this time unfold, it seems to me that we could use some wisdom. Where are the wisdom-keepers? I don’t mean the old politicos who have lost their positions and now say what is wrong. I don’t mean those who want to hold onto the institutions we have as if nothing needs to change. I mean those who have struggled and lost and now, in maturity, know that the losses in life were more valuable than the gains. I mean those whose lives have brought them to wisdom.
And who would listen? It’s the purpose of being young to be young forever. And perhaps the purpose of the old to bring wisdom, to be the wisdom-keepers.
Why not wisdom as a value we cherish? Why not???