“Sometimes I wish I could live my life backwards. Beginning life with the greater wisdom, and ending it with the energy and vitality to live this wisdom more vivaciously.” (Andy Rayner. Parables From The Invisible Humanitarian)
Are we the pawns of some great cosmic joke? Life gets most meaningful, though only slightly more understood, as you grow old.
At forty-seven, I’m past the midpoint of life. Because of my life’s experiences over time, things eyes have seen, and things my ears have heard, many changes have come about in my heart, mind, and soul.
“Youth is wasted on the young.” (George Bernard Shaw)
A revolting line to the ears of today’s millennials. Might be rather arrogant from the lips of a baby-boomer, too.
So be it! It is true! Youth was wasted on me…..
Youth simply cannot seize wisdom’s insight because it is too large a download Too much data. It is like sticking a 4 gig memory stick in your computer, only to have your computer tell you there is insufficient space for the 150 gig download you are trying to do. It simply can’t be done. Gaining life wisdom is like receiving a 150 gig download, on dial-up. It comes only slowly, and over extended periods of time.
Firstly, this wisdom comes from time, only time. Secondly, because it only begins after experiences from 15,000 days. Thirdly, because it is gained not only from the things we remember, but also from those things we have forgotten, lost, and left behind, to make room for the download. But even those forgotten things have changed us unaware, knowing not how, or why.
Wisdom is from a life put in.
From things we did, should have done, or should not have done.
From failing, and succeeding….. and that more common indistinguishable mushy place between the two. You can’t say it was a defeat, but you are robbed of any joy of waving the victor’s flag….
From loving, and being loved, and losing loves.
From pouring out your heart and soul into another (or others), for years, no, decades, who are simply unable to give one drop of love, for your heart, back.
From birthing to burying too many of your fellow journeymen, a child, a parent, or a friend.
From riches to times of wondering where the next dime or groceries will come from.
From great aspirations, plans and dreams, some realized, most not.
I look at my life in Mali as a humanitarian, and as I prepare to return there this fall, I wish I had the energy and vitality I had when I was eighteen. It’s hot, hard work in the Sahel. If I had more energy, I think I could love people better, work in more villages, stay awake longer at night to listen to more Malian life stories.
I look back over my past years as a theologian, a minister, a huge segment of my earlier life. So much of what I worked so hard to accomplish, in my view, were the wrong things in the wrong way.
What we were so busy doing did not assist the soul growth in the people we tried to love. Everything our seminars, leadership workshops, books and experts told us to do, we did. And it birthed a greater illiteracy, long term infancy, and dependency on professionals. Religious people now look for the voice of a human leader to tell them what to do, to plan their service, activity, because they no longer know how to seek direction of their true leader anymore.
Now, as a humanitarian, I can irrigate all the gardens I want to, in the deserts of Sub-Saharan West Africa, to pass food over the lips of the hungry……………
But what if I fail to listen to the words, stories, hopes, dreams, and emotions that come forth over those very same lips? My programs and plans are so big, I no longer have the time, energy, or worse yet, desire, to hear them.
That was my youth….. too busy to really enjoy people. People were crammed into a plan, a program, events, an adventure, a meeting, the details…. and I lost them…… and myself.
Why do we gain wisdom and insight when we are too tired to do much about it?
Maybe it is not a cosmic joke after all. Maybe, life is designed this way to bring us to an understanding.
Is it possible I see the point a little better? You tell me…….
Maybe, the point is not in how many things we have done (did or did not do), all that activity and movement.
Maybe, it is about who, and what, we have become.
A better lover!
A better listener!
A better friend!
This is what mass institutionalism has forgotten, from aid and NGO Agencies, to churches and religions of all kind. You can’t squash relationships into a container, a can, and mass reproduce the end results.
To be a lover is to slow down, to sit, not move, to listen, to be silent, and to focus on them.
Each one is a deep mystery of difference.
Doing less, better, is best.
What do you think?
Tell me your story!
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”