When I was ten, I thought the worst thing about being a kid was that wisdom was slow and intermittent. It stuttered along with my growth—fast at times, then slow, and then not at all for a good long while.
It didn’t bother me, really. Most of the time. But other times it did. Adults knew things. Not just things like how to drive and how to play a guitar, but things like what you should do and how you should live. Things I didn’t know at the time. Not even a little bit.
That, more than anything else, is why I couldn’t wait to grow up. It wasn’t the freedom I wanted, not the thought of never having to go to school and staying up as late as I wanted. It was the fact that I would know things. Important things. Things that mattered.
The great illusion of life is that answers always lay ahead. It’s a promise we speak aloud and believe that by doing so we can speak into truth. Tomorrow or next month or ten years from now, we’ll know. And that’s just not the case. So much of life is wrapped up in questions that will always remain questions. I doubt we’ll ever know exactly why there must be evil in the world or why bad things happen to good people or why the rain must fall on the just. But at certain points we still find a sort of false security in the assumption that age and experience will shed a little light into the dark room of our doubts.
Don’t get me wrong. Time and experience will most certainly help accomplish that. But with me, it often seems that the more I find out about this world the more questions I ask. Which makes me believe that life is nothing but a giant, looping episode of Lost.
And I do know more now at thirty-seven than I did at ten. Much more. I know how to drive. I don’t know how to play a guitar, but I know I could learn to if I really wanted. I know what I should do and how I should live. I also know that knowing what to do and how to live is a lot easier than actually doing it.
Yes, age and experience can bring wisdom. “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory,” the Proverb states. A badge of honor. A symbol that announces to the world that you’ve lived long enough to have a handle on things, however tenuous.
I was thinking about all of this three weeks ago while listening to a father speak of his ten-year-old boy, who’d just returned from another round of chemotherapy. The doctors expected much pain, many side effects, and mixed results. We sat there, his father and I, both awed at wisdom his young son possessed. Wisdom far beyond what I carried around inside of me.
Wisdom that said whatever was happening to his body couldn’t happen to his heart. He could still love and be loved.
Wisdom that said there were things you can control and things you couldn’t, and it was by paying more attention to the things you could that made all the difference in whether your life was good or bad.
Wisdom that said regardless of how you felt or what was happening, there was enough joy and beauty and peace in this world to get you through.
“He’s more right now than I’ll ever be,” his father told me.
That’s true. His son is more than most will ever be. Myself included. Whether that’s because of his disease or in spite of it, I do not know. Maybe both. Maybe neither. But I know this—that boy faces a window to the world that few ever get the opportunity to look through, and he’s taking it all in.
And I know this, too: age and experience may indeed bring the knowledge of truth, but not always. Sometimes wisdom doesn’t come by the time you’ve had. Sometimes it comes by the time you have left.
Today is the second part of my interview with Linda Yezak of AuthorCulture. If you’d like to see more, please click here.