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SCOT BELLAVIA: On The Things I Was to Understand When I’m Older

I’m older now, and I understand some things more than I did. Other things I understand less than I did. Perhaps the interest in others still was only a sinful curiosity because I wasn’t allowed to know them. I never kept a list, so for some, I forgot to care to learn. But mostly, I’ve learned that there’ll always be things I can only understand when I’m older.

I don’t think it’s out of a pride of being in the exclusive club of the aged that my elders tell me: “You’ll understand when you’re older.”

I don’t think they want to keep me in the dark to hold authority over me. After all, it’s not like people are eager to achieve membership in this club, at least in the West. In the West, the older demographic is politely cared for; but they are primarily written off, thought to contribute little to society (unless the political machine considers them expediently electable).

When I’m in the club of the aged, I plan to resign myself to this irreverent irrelevancy. That’s why I’m so fervently writing pieces now about how to view the world, while I’m young and too naïve to know people aren’t making my convictions theirs.

No, it’s not a manipulative desire by old folks that I’m not privy to certain truths of life until I’m older. It’s merely a reality that age grants experience and, if applied appropriately, yields wisdom and maturity.

That’s the conclusion of a few recent ongoing conversations I have had with myself and others.

These conversations address an umbrella of a topic on whether the world is getting better or worse (something I wrote about in September). The discussions that come into play from this umbrella include whether morality progresses, if experience trumps fact, an us-versus-them mentality, and how much I can actually know.

For all these conversations, I have the presupposition that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-11) – that the only improvements humanity sees are technological, not moral.

Yet, the prevailing belief, at least in my sphere of awareness, is that the world moves in one direction. One group worries apocalyptically that the world is getting worse. Another group is encouraged that humanity is becoming better as we become more “woke.” But, there’s a balance to everything in life.

Solutions are often in the middle of extremes. I know that my perspective will change as I get older; after all, hasn’t it in the decade since high school? So I’m yet unconvinced that when my hair is snow-white, when I know my musings are mostly falling on deaf ears and I’ve settled into that irrelevancy, I’ll be a better person because I’ve come around to society’s understanding of things. No, the fact is, I’ll have no greater grasp on all of life’s mysteries than I do now.

If seniors had all the answers, wouldn’t centenarians be beseeched as the wise man at the top of the mountain? Perhaps they are in the East, but not in the West. Not even Methuselah of the Old Testament, who, dead at age 969, was a true millennial, had time to learn all the things we’re told we’ll understand when we’re older.

I think we understand the things we do, not because humanity has developed a better answer, but because we understand more individually.

When an idea comes into our purview, we look at it in light of the things we already believe. Then, we accept or reject the new concept. Whether this process is seconds long or never comes to a conclusion, this is how we learn. Life experience, wherein we encounter ideas, gives us a personal insight into what already was under the sun.

“The more I learn, the less I realize I know.” Socrates might have said that but the Internet has its own mysteries, so it might have been Albert Einstein, Don Henley, or Tony Bennett. No matter who said it, its truth applies as I consider the things I was to understand when I’m older.

– Scot Bellavia


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