Shots of Wit

A regular posting of witticisms, aphorisms, and general musings by Clifford Cohen.

A benefit of growing older…

The wonderful thing about growing older is that as you are perceived to grow more fragile, your ability to see fragility in others also grows.

Back Story

Seeing the humanity of others is almost a lost art. People are intrinsically imperfect, yet we expect them to be perfect. We judge them by harsh and uncompromising criteria. In short, we see people as objects and treat them accordingly. One way we objectify others is to impute to them extraordinary powers, stamina, and consistency; we believe their motivations come from a clear-cut and explainable source. This makes it easy for us to vilify them, counter them, dismiss them—all without feeling any guilt. On the other hand, when we see the vulnerability of others we can value them more appropriately and humanely. We can find reason to protect their dignity as we would our own. We open the door to genuine connection and understanding.

The emotional benefits of seeing the fragility in others far exceed whatever benefits we derive from being physically powerful. For those lucky enough to experience it, we are compensated for loss of the latter over time by the evolution of a new awareness that helps us to do what we were put on this earth to do: to love our fellow man. In short, growing older is a blessing—a process that is infused with its own vigor and associated psychological rewards. All of this is not to say that some never learn or experience the perspective described, or that the young cannot achieve the same emotional enlightenment far in advance of old age. It only acknowledges that for many, such growth defies early discovery.

(…Of course, if you are inclined towards a more cynical view, this aphorism can simply be understood to mean that while others see you as growing weaker, you are in fact growing stronger through your realization of others’ weaknesses…)

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