It was 19 years ago in Israel. I was a 24 years old high school teacher. I was on an educational tour with my class, visiting the northern old town of Rosh Pina. In one of the street corners, sitting on stone stairs, there was a man who looked like Crocodile Dundee. He had long legs and a deep furrowed tanned face. His caramel color Aussie hat shaded his eyes. He waved with his carved wood walking stick to get our attention. “I want to tell you a story,” he said when we approached him.
“When a person comes to the world he receives a barrel with equal amounts of wisdom and stupidity,” he opened his speech. “Some have their wisdom at the bottom of the barrel and the stupidity on top, others have the stupidity at the bottom and the wisdom on top. Those who come with the wisdom at the top of the barrel are those who are recognized at an early age as geniuses. They have impressive intellectual achievements when they are young and some complete their PhD before they turn 30. As they age and tap deeper into their barrel of intellect they touch their share of stupidity. They start to talk nonsense, they write ridiculous scientific papers but no one argues with them – because they are the experts.”
“Those who have their stupidity at the top of the barrel, start their life doing all kinds of stupid things. Some leave school, hang around with the wrong people, and do destructive things. But as they age their wisdom starts to come out. At this stage they might not have formal education or any intellectual achievement, but they start seeing the world in a clarity that they have never seen before. The problem is that people don’t take them seriously and wouldn’t listen to them, because they don’t have the right credentials.”
The man stood up, leaned on his cane and looked at us. “Do you know where your wisdom is?” he asked.
I turned 43 on Sunday. I tend to be reflective around my birthday time, and maybe that’s why I remembered this story recently. I think that when I came to this world my barrel of intellect was shaken or stirred. I was naïve when I was young but not completely stupid, and as an adult I do know that making mistakes is very human. What I love about my aging is the fact that I haven’t lost the ability to look at the world with my child-curious wondering eyes, but at the time I have the wisdom and experience to do things with what I see. Aging allows me to do things that I couldn’t do at a young age, for so many reasons. It allows me to become the alchemist of my own life - to gather material, knowledge, and energy around me and turn them into something meaningful to me - like this blog. Maybe this is the wisdom that comes with age.