On Aging

Aging is the process of learn­ing to appre­ci­ate grey­ness. It is only a gen­tle irony that our hair takes on that hue. The things chil­dren appre­ci­ate and learn about are defined by clar­i­ty: a col­or, a taste, an emo­tion. As time pass­es and expe­ri­ences pile up, red becomes oxblood, sweet­ness and emo­tions take shape by their intensity.

My near­ly-sev­en son cares not for fic­tion. He wants facts in books. The clar­i­ty has grown in scope, but not in com­plex­i­ty. This will con­tin­ue until at some point he will become old.

That’s where I sit: on old side of things. You become old when your expe­ri­en­tial knowl­edge gives you the abil­i­ty to dis­cern facts from things that pur­port to be facts; and you appre­hend or com­pre­hend that the act of know­ing is equal parts belief and agenda. 

So I no longer demand clar­i­ty. My scope has nar­rowed. I know that no mat­ter how good that beer might be, I’ll enjoy bour­bon more. I know that there is no point try­ing to con­vince peo­ple who hold fun­da­men­tal posi­tions on a top­ic to change their minds. I have reached the lim­its of clar­i­ty and move cau­tious­ly in the vast mist that exists between facts, and between knowl­edge and real­i­ty. Red is a gra­di­ent, fla­vors are com­bined, emo­tions are deep and savored. I under­stand how it is frus­trat­ing to the not-old to see what appears to be a lack of con­cern, or a con­cern with the unsub­stan­tial. The fre­quen­cy of the old is longer, both expe­ri­en­tial­ly and relativistically.

To be old is to be a ship hap­pi­ly lost in fog, savor­ing the sub­tle­ty of the phan­toms that flit about the cor­ners of our eyes, that, when we were young, we once mis­took for friends.

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