So Much Younger Now
The pattern on the tablecloth was subtle but I was certain I could now draw it unaided, the result of staring down at its weave for what seemed an eternity. Across the table from me sat a young man, not yet twenty, who had spent the last half hour or so stating his opinions on a wide variety of subjects. I agreed with him on practically nothing, but that was not the troublesome thing. It was his unwavering certainty, his rigid, relentless grip on the conclusions he’d reached after so few years in the world, that I found so regrettable. Several of those in my party attempted to challenge him but his thoughts were stacked, brick upon brick, forming an unassailable wall so high he could no longer peer over to gaze and consider. My eyes kept focus on the tablecloth. I didn't dare lift them, lest the young man see the pity I knew was there. But then I had to smile at my forgetfulness; I was no doubt much like him when I was young, comfortable that the knowledge I’d gained would be sufficient to carry me along on a calm breeze of surety for the rest of my days. I thought I would never face an unsolvable puzzle, an unanswerable question, an unsurpassable grief. But as Bob Dylan once so sagely observed, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”
Days are long when we are young. They stretch out before us, uncharted, holding their myriad possibilities in a nonchalant hand. We gather these days like the flowers of summer till one year we notice how quickly they’ve passed. They fly past our window - spring night upon winter day, autumn day upon summer night - till they seem a blur of color and light. Beautiful, but ephemeral. We reach out to grab them by fistfuls and they slip through our fingers like rain. The world spins faster the older one becomes. That’s something they don’t tell you when you’re young. You wouldn’t believe them if they did.
I have heard it said that the opposite of faith is not doubt, it is certainty. This thought resonates with me the longer I skip cross the planet. My curiosity has only deepened, but I am not as sure as I once was. I have seen too much to rest in my own understanding. I know there is mystery and I find this fact immensely freeing. We struggle against this knowledge when we’re young; we want to believe every question has an answer just waiting to be discovered, like a gemstone in a desert full of sand. We want to know we are right. How much time we all waste. There is wisdom in the mystery. Wisdom, beauty and truth. Untroubled sleep and open-hearted love.
Last weekend I accompanied a young friend on a wander around her soon-to-be new college campus. A gorgeous place with a library straight out of Hogwarts. (I’m visiting again in the fall, she'd better count on it.) Beyond those stained glass windows lay Shakespeare and fractals, neuroscience and astrophysics, Bach, law, history, theatre. A kaleidoscopic world of knowledge and possibility awaits her. Her excitement is infectious and I wish her all good things, for I know there is so much good to be found. From the perch on which I now sit, I still see a realm of choice and prospect. There is so much I still want to learn - skills I wish to master, horizons I wish to view. I feel no need to convince anyone of anything for I know I haven’t the answers to life in my pocket. And that’s ok.
I’m joyful in the mystery.
I'm so much younger now.