“Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.”

— Bernard Berenson

“You can judge your age by the amount of pain you feel when you come in contact with a new idea.”

— Pearl S. Buck

As I stand at the beginning of my seventh decade on Earth, I think about the older people who have passed through my life.  Who are the ones who have commanded my attention?  Who are the ones who have earned my admiration?  What would I like to bring to my world as I begin the bonus years of my life?

If I had been born twenty years sooner, I would now have reached my life expectancy.  Those twenty years have given us, on average, an additional ten years of life — the bonus years, as I think of them.  Add to these statistics the fact that my own family’s longevity has taken them far beyond the average, and I realize that I still have many years to grow and to learn and to become the person others will remember when I am gone.  The older people I have known have taught me that I would like to be the sort of elder who stands firm in what I have learned to be true but who also is able to open my ears and open my heart to the fresh dreams and ideas of the next generation.

Although I have learned the value of self-discipline and consistently attending to the mundane tasks of life, I would hope not to carry that love of consistency into my thought process as well.  We must allow our thinking to expand beyond consistency, especially during the bonus years, or we may risk falling into the habit of defining each new day in terms of the last one.  Just think of all the surprising things we might miss if we refuse to acknowledge their existence!  If Pearl Buck is right, and we should judge our age by the pain we experience when confronted with new ideas, then I would like to do my best to avoid that pain by allowing my mind and my spirit to remain young.

We should not judge a book by its cover, we are told; and I think we should apply this advice to ourselves as well as to others.  Yesterday, when I wrote about weaving our tapestries, I spoke about being able to close my eyes and see all the colors of my childhood, my youth, and my young adult years and appreciate the vibrancy and the different shades of beauty they have brought to my life.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all maintained this ability to see — with our eyes and with our hearts — until our very last breath?  I think again of the older friends who have left their mark on my life, and I realize as I picture them how often they would close their eyes as they listened to my hopes and dreams.  I thought they did that in order to concentrate; but maybe the truth is that they were looking back at their own tapestries and finding the right shades and hues to give color to my words.

There is no escaping the fact that our bodies will age; but I do believe we can choose to keep our minds and our spirits from allowing consistency to close our eyes to the wonders that continue to color our lives as we age.  When I grow up, I would like to be able to see with my heart.