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.
Oh, how true Pamela but, we only discover this as we age, don't we ? Nobody has all the answers and no-one ever will. Life is a mystery which gets more mysterious, the older I get !!!!!ReplyDelete
So sorry that I haven't commented much lately …… no excuses …… I've just been a very bad blogger !!!!! XXXX
The young are so full of certainty these days.ReplyDelete
The older I get the more I realise that when one is young the idea of ageing just doesn't feature in one's thinking. It is only in old age that we look back - in my case with nostalgia and pleasure.
Beautifully written. As a young girl, I read the dictionary and encyclopedia simply because I wanted to know more. Part of me is still that child.ReplyDelete
Lynn, you are the third person I've heard of that used to read the dictionary and encyclopedia for fun. Just wanted to comment as I don't think people can say that much anymore in the days we live in now. Perhaps they can say they've read the internet.Delete
Please allow me to be the fourth, Donna Baker. I keep several dictionaries close at hand, even though I do the wiki route, sometimes it is just fun to open those old tomes up and see what jumps out.Delete
Oh, what a wonderful post. I've been reflecting on issues like that lately, and I think the young pursue their values so determinedly, because it's a way of figuring out what their values really are. The more they sharpen them against others' opinions, the more they hone them, the more they are required to look inward and decide, "Yes, this is what I think and believe." Once one has decided though, I think life makes one loosen up and start to give the same respect to others' opinions. That is, if one keeps growing. You need a firm core to operate from, but that's always the choice, isn't it? Whether to keep growing or not.ReplyDelete
This post is full of wisdom and truth. The older I get the grayer the world is. Black and white have faded. I doubt more yet my faith is stronger than it was. Embracing mystery is truly freeing, as you've written.ReplyDelete
Pamela this post and your writing is so thoughtful and so true. Age does seem to give us the gift that youth has ahead of them; yet in retrospect we can act on these adventures with wisdom, grace, and knowledge. Still a lot of the world to see and much to learn!!ReplyDelete
The Arts by Karena
Coco Chanel: Three Weeks
Such lovely words, Pamela. It is nice that you have a young friend to wander around a college campus with and to proclaim "I'm so much younger now".ReplyDelete
I look forward to your amazingly well written posts. This one rings very true. Thank you for articulating so succinctly the wisdom that can come of experience in life.ReplyDelete
Oh Pamela...such a wonderful post, and so very, very true! I, too, am so much more open and drawn to the mysteries that surround us. I love this later stage curiosity, including the knowledge that I don't have all of the answers. The open-ended question no longer seems like a threat, but more of an invitation. Thank you for your beautiful prose. I'm sure your young friend will be delighted to save a chair for you in the library by a beautiful stained glass window. Much love, Jaime AReplyDelete
Yes. Isn't it freeing when we let go of the security of certainty? Doing so, we embrace myriad possibilities and become less judgmental as well. Let others have their certainties, their dogmas, their rigid beliefs. Who knows - they could be right. At least, if it works for them. We're all on our different paths and we must allow others to discover their own. As Iris DeMent sang, "But no one knows for certain and so it's all the same to me, I think I'll just let the mystery be."ReplyDelete
On another note, have you seen "Far From the Madding Crowd" yet? It's a must see!
Love this post Pamela..so very thoughtful..it made me smile. Sometimes I listen to my children, riding their high horse into adulthood and bite my tongue. Just as you said...you then remember when. I look at the letters I wrote to my father at the same age and just laugh. I wish I could go back and knock myself on the head. Now that's a post for you...what would you tell your younger self, if you could? Life...always something. Thank god for that! xxReplyDelete
With age comes wisdom, the wisdom to know we don't know everything, as we once thought, right? Beautifully written, Pamela.ReplyDelete
I always check for your blog daily. It is so thoughtful. Thank you. I am running out of books to read. Please post some of your recent reads. The Nightengale, by Kristin Hannah is great, so is All the Light you can not see, by Anthony Doerr(?), At the Water's Edge, by Sara Gruen (takes place in Scotland) and Evening Chorus by Helen Humphreys (she is one of my all time favorite authors), I'll wait to see you new list. Thank you again.ReplyDelete
Rose in Ohio
I'm working on my summer list now, Rose!Delete
A lovely poem by Mary Oliver on mysteries and certainty......ReplyDelete
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
~ Mary Oliver ~
I love this post! Actually, it fits into my theory (not certainty!) that one of the biggest problems we have in our country is the lack of real adults. People who see beyond black and white, are willing to be responsible parents and citizens, can be open-minded, can be tolerant of other cultures and opinions, and have the patience to learn about issues from a variety of sources before forming their own opinions. The certainty of the young is a necessary stage, I suppose, but to see it carried over into mature adulthood is worrisome.ReplyDelete
I love the Bob Dylan quote! Such wise words, and I so enjoyed reading your own reflections too.ReplyDelete
How strange, I wrote about the same subject last week - about youth and seemingly endless days. Perhaps its a theme we can all relate to as we get older. How young and obstinate we all were and we thought we knew everything too. Life teaches us differently and, sometimes, it can be a bitter pill to swallow (although a necessary one).ReplyDelete
LOVED THIS POST ...!!!! xoxoReplyDelete