I am turning 70 this year. As Michelangelo said in his 90’s, “I am still learning.”
One thing I keep learning and relearning is that we tend to look at the very elderly and forget that they were ever the very young.
The greying or disappearing hair, the deeply-crenelated skin, the bent shoulders and back, the arthritic hands. We feel sympathy for the very old because it seems they are but remnants of a life. A crumpled leaf soon to be swept away by a random wind.
In most modern societies we tend to exalt the beauty of the young with their bright eyes and lithe limbs. At best we often ignore the very old, finding little, if any, beauty in their weathered and weakened frames.
Michelangelo would have corrected us, I think. As an artist he understood the value of perspective. How if we shift our perspective, we suddenly bring into view a whole new picture. An entirely new vision of reality.
I think of trees when I think of elders. Yes, the tender young sapling of beech or oak are a sweet sight to behold, as they sway with every breeze and stretch towards the sun.
But lovely as they are, young trees do not stir me as deeply as do the thick, scarred trunks of old trees, some of their branches twisted or broken, yet providing a protective canopy for all who gather near.
We do not dismiss old trees as remnants. In the wisdom of our folklore or myth (where so much true wisdom lies), we see old trees as survivors, brave warriors that have weathered and overcome all obstacles. And when an old tree topples at last in a storm, we know the rest of the earth will be enriched by what it will continue to provide.
Old trees are not mere remnants. They are a revelation.
If we can remember this and apply the same understanding and appreciation for the elders in our lives — and to our own lives if we are given the gift of old age — I think we will find our wisdom increased and our gratitude deepened. Remembering and practicing this bit of practical wisdom will bring each of us our own heart-lifting revelation.