New Podcast on Aging and Productive Life
This episode examines the inverse relationship between physical prowess and growing in experience and wisdom
Frank: Good morning. I want to offer a few thoughts on the topic of entitled Aging and Productive Life, Aging and Productive Life.
I’m going to speak only about adult years. So I’ll leave off the part from our birth, our upbringing, to the emerging era of our autonomy, our teenage years where we begin to consciously forge an identity and establish somewhat of a basis for how adult life will proceed there from. So I’m going to begin my reflections on the period of time, which I’ll call adult life. There’s no exact moment, of course.
But somewhere in the 1820-22 around there, you, yourself and your life proceeds. This is a side comment. One of the important things is to own that a lot of people live in a matrix of available relationships or histories or phenomena or experiences that are constantly places where we offload. Blame or responsibility or why I am the way I am. I believe that it’s far wiser to define one’s life as that which I’ve created consciously. And then even relationships, we have both the opportunity to define them in ways we want, regardless of the experience. The experience has its own external collection of realities to it. But we ourselves add the final interpretation of what that might be.
So I could regard my upbringing, my childhood era as a period in which my mother neglected me, which is not the case, by the way. Or I could define that period of my upbringing, in which my mother despite an enormous amount of pressures and burdens on her gave an enormous amount to me as best she could. This might describe the exact same external observable phenomena of what happened in my upbringing. And yet, it’s my choice to finally add to that, how that string of events; oh, yeah, she wasn’t there for my birthday, again, not the case; oh, yeah, she wasn’t there for my graduation, again, not the case. But yes, these are facts that can be kind of ticked off on the calendar.
But what was she doing at the time? What did I even know what she’s doing at the time? What was she dealing with it? How hard did she try to get to my birthday? How about the times that she did make a birthday and actually was fired from a low paying job as a result of doing that one thing for me, did I know that do I know that now, and so forth?
So the mere fact that a great many things and a great many people and a great many people, both for you and against you are part of what add up to how our lives unfold, our degrees of self-confidence, our degrees of opportunity, and so forth, despite this great many of those things, they’re not defined simply by some sort of facticity or definitional account of the external stream of events or behavior or things said to me or they’re not defined by that. They’re defined finally by my choice on how I understand that and how I strive to understand that in a way that’s most healthy for me.
So this was a side comment. But it’s an important one for me, that all of us have the invitation, if we like, to build a huge matrix of recollections and memories and people and things and phenomena, and experiences, all of which are available to be low cusses of blame for why I’m like this because this happened to me, because they did this to me. Whereas I believe that to the extent it’s possible, that if we understand the unfolding of our lives as that which we created, we created either with sound and conscientious interpretation of events and experiences and relationships.
And also, we more importantly than a kind of back-feed of interpretive additions to “happens to us.” But more importantly, that we understand that we build our lives, it’s more a present and future-oriented thing; we build our lives, we can choose who we have around us. We can. And it’s important to do so. It may be hard. It may indeed be hard. There may be person, I may need this job, I can’t pay my rent without it. There’s a person in the cubicle beside me who’s positively poisonous, positively poisonous. They’re a genius and they’re poisonous. Every word out of their mouth is a siren call to be an invitation to have some sort of negative view of some person or something. That person’s there around me all my life.
So, not every relationship can be chosen. But we can choose with whom we want to have the relationships in which we invest, not those in which we put up with or I don’t want to say endure, we should conscientiously relate to that person as best we can from within the qualities and standards of our own sense of how life should be properly undertaken. But now, to my point of what I intended to be a short few words of a podcast.
My point is this, adult life moves from its greatest moment of physical strength, beauty. When you’re 20-21, you may have a couple of years longer to get a little more beautiful. Maybe somebody like 26-27 might be a little more beautiful than somebody that’s 21 who’s just finally coming into their own their own fullness of their beauty. And also during those years, you can invest in your beauty, you can work out, you can diet, you can learn about cosmetics. But somewhere between 20 and 26, 27, 28, something like that, is going to be the absolute physical premiere time of every human beings life, of my life, of your life.
So from that time, everything physical declines until the end of your days, 90, 100 or whatever. It doesn’t mean life declines. It doesn’t mean your fitness, your health, your strength, it doesn’t mean that 40 year hopeless rip. I’m not saying that at all. What I’m saying is that somewhere between the advent of adulthood, and another 8-10 years tops honestly. These are the finest of our maturity and our physical moments. We wake up fresher. If we’re conscientious and we’ve tried to train ourselves during our educational years, we can concentrate for longer periods of time. We have more mental agility. We have more physical agility. We have more proneness to strength. We have more bounce back-ability. We have more resistance, immune system, everything is at its best.
We can improve certain things through careful attention and investment. But just by what’s naturally given the physical is at its finest in the beginning of adulthood. And without wanting to sound despairing or morbid, but it just declines eventually, it’s stops running altogether. That’s the time to say goodbye, thank you, it’s nice working with you. I’ll try to holler down from the other side or else I’ll wait for another 100 years, see you then. Okay.
But in the exact reverse of starting at the top physically and sliding to diminished capacity physically, at the very verse of that is the arena of our experience, our wisdom and our knowledge and our expertise. That is at the bottom of our trajectory from the advent of adulthood. So it’s a curious thing, we started the advent of our adulthood with all the things physically that are good for success: strength, virility, endurance, capacity, beauty, health, everything that’s really needed to succeed and produce are at their very best, right at the very start of adulthood; whereas much else that’s needed to be effective, successful, productive, are at their worst. You know the least. Your expertise is the least. Your wisdom, your knowledge, your experience is the least. It only gets better from there.
So ironically, at the end of the time, there’s going to be a person who if they’ve lived well, if they’ve lived conscientiously, if they’ve lived rigorously and invested in spiritual regimen and practice, at the very end, we might find a person who’s quite feeble, quite susceptible to being sick, perhaps even sick or constantly sick, or can’t get up, can’t walk, and so on and so forth. But as long as nothing has degenerated mentally, that person, they’re not at the peak of their mental progress because mental prowess needs the strength of youth, but they are at the peak of their knowledge, their wisdom, their information, their experience, but at the nadir of their physical prowess.
So this is what I wanted to talk about and look at with us so that every person in every moment has the opportunity to be as productive as we possibly can every moment that we possibly can. One thing is to simply be aware of those things which contribute to goodness and productivity and good outcomes. If one imagines that only being faster, stronger, quicker, more alert, being able to Google faster, being able to look at more telephone, airline seats faster than the person, if we think that just simple physical quickness of body and mind are the advantage, then one has an incomplete view of what contributes to genuine productivity and success.
If one has a complete view of what contributes to productivity and success, what one recognizes is that one needs physical strength in mind and alertness and youth and power to do well, to be productive, to have high outcomes. But what one also needs, information, knowledge, wisdom and experience. Those are also necessary. So a person at the peak of their performance capacity physically, that person who believes that that is the totality of what comprises or contributes to a good and productive life actually is living in a form of misunderstanding.
They can be productive. No doubt, no doubt, they can be productive. They just can’t be as genuinely and fully productive as possible. And also, they deprive themselves of the opportunity to build the foundation for much finer and greater and larger life ahead. This is the important thing. Because they see people who look weaker the strengths of the people from whom they might choose to learn from or take a position of inheritance from. They can’t see those things which they believe contribute to success and competitive advantage, namely physical youthful alertness.
But those who understand that the fullness of the basis of life and as it grows, and as it gets stronger, and as opportunities come in the future, the likes of which a young person can never anticipate, never understand their nature, never understand the type of decision making that goes into a fork in the road in which life becomes great or remains average and so forth, they just haven’t met them, they’re not familiar.
But if they were able to understand that wisdom through such experience, it would be a benefit for them to have even when there’s no way for them to have it other than to have learned it from someone elder. Those people will be compensating for the natural nadir of that part of productivity and goodness and setting strong foundations for growth and expansion and finally concluding with an entire good life. Those people that know both things are necessary are the wise, young people.
On the other side, the olders, 28 year older than 27, and 30 year older than 20, so I’m not talking about old and young or elderly, what I’m talking about is people who are further down the road, and who, through a conscientious and invested life, have a great deal of knowledge, a great deal of expertise, a great deal of wisdom. I’ll tell a quick little story. When I was in my 30s, I play ball on the street in the city parks. There were there were 17 year old people who could just run rings around me. They were physically superior to me in in every way, in every way: jump higher, run faster, dribble betters…
I could beat them usually and pickup ball on the street. I could usually beat them. Although they were twice as good at me, and we’re talking about sports, it’s a purely physical thing. Reason why I could beat them is because I had tons of wisdom built up over years of experience of playing. And so what would make me when constantly out on the street out in the parks was my wisdom compensated for superior physicality when we’re talking about just sports. In other words, I’ve seen a faint right move left, I’ve seen it. In the eyes I’ve seen it. In the feet I’ve seen it. In the knees I’ve seen it. In the shoulders I’ve seen it so many thousands of times, that no matter how good anyone is that at the age of 17, it’s never anything other than what I know perfectly. So I have a knowledge of something I can see thousands of things happening, and that makes it impossible for this young person to defeat me in a game we pickup on the street basketball.
So this is the type of thing I’m talking about is that it’s a sliding scale, it’s a sliding scale of a physical diminishment and a sliding scale of the interior elements. Knowledge, wisdom, information, experiences, those are growing, those are growing. And that youth one lacks this, that elder one lacks that. And so why is people should always be trying to compensate and add to themselves through loving relationships, through genuine, sincere, invested relationships? They should be trying to add to themselves that part which is inevitably missing. It’s not missing because you’re bad. It’s not missing because you’re dumb. It’s not missing because you’re immoral. It’s missing because you’re 20. It’s missing because you’re 30. It’s missing because you’re 40 or 50 or 70 or 80. It’s life.
And so, humility toward though that side of the spectrum, that side of the sliding scales that we need and cannot do without and cannot reproduce, I myself cannot reproduce a 20-year-old body, a 20-year-old mind. I cannot. A 20-year-old cannot produce 50 years of knowledge, wisdom, experience, investment, study, knowledge of the world, cannot. They cannot. Not because youth are folly. No. It’s because you’re 20.
There’s one other small point. The elderly, there’s two things. They can obviously spot that younger are physically more powerful, more beautiful, just have more physical advantages in life. They can stay up longer. They can think longer. They can think quicker. They can act quicker. They can learn faster. All of those things. An elder person, if they’re smart will recognize that, if they’re not insecure people.
But there’s another thing that elder people don’t recognize. And this is extremely important, I think this would be helpful for people. Young people have greater wisdom, greater knowledge, greater experience. They have the things that the elder believes is their sole property in because they grew up in a time of world history that differs from the one of the elderly person. That’s the important thing to remember.
So it isn’t only that the kids are faster, smarter, physically faster to do the technology. They grew up with the technology. Their wisdom with the technology is superior to ours. They have those things at youth that is traditionally thought of as acquired at age. Yes, I have greater wisdom. I have 15 years more knowledge on something. But I don’t have 50 years more knowledge on how to use an iPhone, on how to build an app, on how to do zillions of things. So the young person, there’s actually two things: one is commonly known, one is not known, that the young person has what emulates the wisdom of age already at a younger age. And so a smart elder person will know that you can’t only just say, yeah, you’re fast, but I know. That’s a foolish position for an older person to take.
So, the elder person, there’s two elements that they have to ponder when trying to complete themselves through a cooperative and shared life together with younger people. They have to acknowledge that there’s a side of the younger person that’s not only just more beautiful, more healthy, faster, stronger, but there’s a side of the young people that has those things that the elder typically think they have a corner on the market: more experience, more wisdom, more knowledge, more information. So this is important thing for elder to learn.
But the thing for young people is that although they have greater prowess, not only physical beauty, but knowledge, experience, skillfulness, responsiveness; they have interior things that are superior to elders. But the temptation there is to fail to recognize that while those types of knowledge and experience are possible, accessible, they come just from growing up in a given period of historical period of time and technological development. That just happens naturally. But the young person who is tough, who’s smart, will realize that there are many, many, many other elements of life, that can only happen with the passing itself.
Living one’s own life is a daily stream of thousands of decisions. And a person who is invested in doing that well represents a trove of knowledge and wisdom that if one is smart enough to recognize it, I myself can never have that no matter how smart I am. They add that to their contemporary current path of building life. Those people will be the ones with the greatest possible advantage in building life in which opportunities will create greatness and serenity, power, confidence, peace.
I hope these thoughts are helpful. I hope they’re clear, I should say. I know if they’re communicated properly, they’re helpful. But I hope they’re clear. The simple measure is different types of elements contribute to a productive life and a good life. They’re on sliding, opposite sliding skills. If we’re humble and recognize it, there’s an age of person who has that which I can never have, including the elder, same the young person, that person has that which I can never have and it’s not just mere beauty and health and strength, physical things. Then we, together, can actually build an incredible where the highly productive are much more than we’re doing now.
Thanks a lot for listening. Talk to you again soon.