If we look in a dictionary, we can get some rigid standards for what it means to be young. If we ask different people of different ages, the answer doesn’t tend to focus on what the dictionary says. Our life challenges change how we view youth. What does young mean to you?
Let me share a story, a theme about youth men struggle with. It is funny how we would believe vanity about our appearance is something more common among women. Vanity is about the human condition, our insecurity, and our myths. So, where does this land with men? This might surprise you, but it is about hair. Stay with me just a little while I lay the foundation, and we will see how men’s view here reflects our views on age.
Bad Hair Day
It is true that, on average, women spend more on their hair than men do. Yet, the typical man worries about his hair more today than at any time in my life. Though some things came back from the generations before. Visit your local pharmacy store, and you will find hair care for men is a big business. The amount of time men spend in front of mirrors, hoping society and individuals will offer them acceptance based on their hair, is intriguing. And if they are not happy with their hair, they color it to hide aging, or they shave it off because it isn’t perfect enough.
Oh, one more focus on hair, beards. There is no doubt that beards are a unique statement of manhood. Yes, there have been a few women in history that were bearded, but it is rare. Before COVID, we still believed beards were unsophisticated. Phases that prevailed included; clean-shaven, mountain man, etc. Men have said to me over the years many times, “I cannot grow a good beard, so I don’t grow one at all.” This doesn’t mean they don’t grow one, it means they shave daily to remove it. Oh, I support the choice to shave, that is not my point here. My point is men suffer from vanity around their hair.
What Hair Seems To Say About Age
Now, let’s bring this back to our discussion on age. It is known that for teenage men shaving or growing a beard means they are becoming men. It is a right of passage for many. Likewise, growing old is associated with baldness. This means anxiety over thinning hair or sections of the head where hair no longer grows. Thus, men often choose to shave it all off rather than have a feeling that their hair is saying they are imperfect.
Back to Wisdom About Age
Does shaving hair on a monk in a monastery make them wise? Or is it the old man with the long flowing beard walking about with a shepherd’s staff? Some might say it was in grandma’s kitchen, who neither shaves nor grows a beard. It is certain many grandmothers have much wisdom to offer younger generations.
There are those today who turn to chatGPT over their grandparents. It is possible for technology to have faster access to knowledge but not to wisdom. Age isn’t likely to give artificial intelligence wisdom either. AI, artificial intelligence, will never feel the weight of the decisions it makes. The appearance of feeling, emotion, and gravity are all artificial with AI. This does not mean all our decisions as humans are better, it states a prevailing fact that we have access to wisdom AI does not.
Age as a Path to Wisdom
Some wisdom we can acquire in the moment. Most wisdom comes as the result of a quest, something we see a need for and as the result of seeking. Seeing the need for wisdom increases as we see our lack of wisdom over time, ah, time as in the thing that creates age. Indeed, some fail to age because of a lack of wisdom. We call this foolishness.
This brings me to the first strong takeaway from this article. Age is more valuable in the pursuit of wisdom than wisdom is in the pursuit of youth. There is still a point to be made about youth, but we needed to lay the foundation for the point of pursuing youth before making the point. The youth that we benefit from is found in the journey of aging.
It is great when someone younger finds wisdom and achieves something at a younger age without foolish decisions. When we make our focus the doing something younger than others did, then we lose sight of wisdom and elevate the value of foolishness in our quest. We seek pride in the name of wisdom. This doesn’t produce good success; it produces fragile success. Finding wisdom earlier is good. Seeking wisdom is the goal, not superiority. Wisdom, which most of us learn with age, is for me and not to impress you. Wisdom is not selfish or self-centered. Wisdom is about self acceptance over social approval. It is about my decisions and outcomes, not controling the decisions of others.
Wisdom as a Path to Youth
There are two sides to youth we miss in life. When we are young, we waste our youth seeking to be older. When we are older, we can lose sight of the parts of youth that don’t fade away.
My mother is older and suffering from dementia. We watched my father’s mother go through the same journey. One thing in common in both of their journeys is the later memories of life fade, and the earlier memories resurface as the primary memories. She struggles with remembering what happened before, at this point, almost any before. Yet, she is loved. She has two sons and a daughter. Her last sibling, her brother, just passed. It is reminding the rest of us to enjoy life along the journey because one day, that journey may be the memories we carry in the front of our minds.
When we are older, there are many who keep their minds active and continue learning. If we don’t suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s, or another similar challenge, then our minds have the ability to remain rich in vitality even with age. What fills the hearts of young people is learning about the world around them, exploring and experiencing it. Even if we have one of those challenges listed above, we can still experience the joys of the world around us. Being older and wiser reduces the foolish risks we may take during that exploration.
The Younger Side of Wisdom
Youth tend to be more open to exploration. Partly because they have fewer burdens in life and partly because they have made fewer mistakes to learn about their mortality. It isn’t that the young think they are immortal, they forget to make mortality part of their considerations.
What is it that you have an opportunity to pursue now that you will not have the same opportunity to pursue later? It isn’t fun. LOL!!! The fun doesn’t end at 18, 20, 24, 30, or any other age. It is good to learn how to make friends, but the family has more traction for most of our future than friends. While our best friend in high school may stay in touch, our mother will always be our mothers. Do we accept the imperfections of our friends and reject the imperfections of our parents? Let’s flip that around. Do you feel, as a parent, your goal in life is to meet the expectations of your children? This is a thought we should consider in both directions. Teaching our children to be accepting of our parent’s humanity and imperfections will help our children to accept their own humanity. Of course, there are extremes we should not accept, but we all know that is not what I am focusing on here.
What is the outcome of thinking this through, shifting our mindsets of what we require of our parents and what we allow our children to require of us? It is acceptance. It is a relationship and a loss of tension. Less tension and more acceptance of others and ourselves says we will have happier youth years, and if we suffer like my mother or grandmother, we will have happier later years. We have no control over our parents or personal decisions, or certainly, we know the control of our children’s decisions is limited. What we do have is influence. That influence is greater when we see each other as individuals.
What is Staying Young?
Staying young is enjoying the journey and the moment. Losing youth is feeling the weight of the journey in unprofitable ways. With age, the wisdom we collect in our journey teaches us the healthy forms of stress and the unhealthy forms. Life isn’t meant to be stress-free, and some stress cannot be avoided. Wisdom guides us in not adding unprofitable stress to our lives. The bad stress we could and should have avoided robs us of youth in the day we live and the memories of our past.
Wisdom remembers the people around us are also on journeys and doesn’t weaponize stress to manipulate those around us. This is one reason many limit the time they spend talking to politicians, listening to the news, and excess time on social media. Those all have value, but they are all imperfect and offer both healthy and unhealthy stress. We can, and typically should engage with them in some way but rarely should we let politicians, news, or social media tell us how and when to engage with them. When we put them in charge of our youth, they don’t manage it well. Wisdom will teach us the role each of them has as we age if we do it without the unhealthy side stress.
Families, friends, work, and community associates all have seasons of value. Staying young is both living where you are on your journey and remembering those who will share those memories in the future. Having fantastic memories without people to share them can make our memories a lonely place. Our youth enriches the later years of others when it is shared with those who are older. Grandparents benefit from grandchildren. Grandparents enjoy seeing their children journey through the parts of life they remember. Even though it is a different time, it is a similar time, and it builds relationships if we want it to.
That shared time, when we are young and reach for the wisdom of those who went before us, offers us a better youth. A better youth means better memories and learning wisdom for ourselves with less negative stress. We should build friends among those of our age but rarely do those our age have the wisdom of those who went before us, those of more age. So, to experience more productive youth, we should engage more with those with less youth.
Do I think this way because I am a grandparent, perhaps? You are going to make that judgment and decide for yourself. I know that. Is this article new and unique compared to what other grandparents have said over the march of time? Not at all. We can predict others will share and write similar thoughts for those that come after them in decades and centuries to come. This is the question for you.
How will you influence your future today?
P.S. It is less about the hair than you think. 🙂