You Don’t Know What I’ve Seen by Navina Anand

‘You don’t know what I’ve seen’ she said pompously to her daughter and was taken aback for a moment. Those were the exact same words she had heard from her father. The very same words that she had rolled her eyes to as a child, rolled out of her tongue as a parent. Parents use this ‘theme’ a lot in their lectures to the offspring. We assume that we know more because we have spent more years on this planet. But is it true? Do we know more ?

Even from an evolutionary perspective, aren’t our kids supposed to be brighter than us? And shouldn’t we be proud of it? But maybe it is the protective instinct in us , to shield our children from all our mistakes- we want them to learn from OUR mistakes. But we don’t realize that just because we had a rotten experience, doesn’t mean they will have the same. Maybe they will handle it more intelligently than us.. we don’t know for sure.

In tamizh, there is a saying which translates into “ If the elders said it, it is almost as if god decreed it himself“.  For every cranky uncle who had some archaic words of wisdom for us “Doesn’t your mom feed you? Why are you so skinny”.. which after two whole decades becomes “ Don’t you feed your kids? Why are they so skinny”.. Um…. Clearly uncle it is genes, but come on.. since the elders said it, it is god’s word  (roll eyes)

If we take an inventory of the older people around us, do we feel that with every year, they are becoming wiser, more Zen, more enriched with pearls of wisdom that we SHOULD be taking advantage of? Or are they becoming more bitter, cynical, critical of how the younger generation is destroying the world, how the good old times of walking to school can never be experienced by the youth of today?

Does the number of years spent on the planet equal to wisdom? Have you personally become wiser? And do all of us IMAGINE that we are wiser every year?  Do all of us continue to grow every year or is it that by some point we have built ourselves an echo chamber , surrounding ourselves with the kind of people who echo our POV, have similar interests, leanings and way of life and we stop growing at some point, unable to see the other person’s perspective and strongly believe that the decades that we have spent existing is proof enough of our wisdom?

“How dare he not respect my age” is a common Indian grouse. I am unsure about other cultures. But should I respect your chronological age or your wisdom of thought which you may or may not have developed depending on your capability for growth? Or are we just a big hodgepodge of people across the age spectrum judging each other more and more as we get older, bitter, cynical. The older judging the young for their frivolous attitude and the youth judging the elders for being archaic in thought and action.

Is being ‘young at heart’ a choice one makes ? Or is it a naturally endowed quality in some people who always see the positive in people, the beauty in life, the energy of youth and the gift of life.

As you get older.. which way do you find yourself leaning towards?

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