I turned 65 yesterday. And today I'm trying to figure out what it all means. In the 1930s, 65 became the universal age of retirement, at that time, a relatively new concept in American culture. People retired before that decade, but there was no set age, nor was there any government retirement benefit. But since I didn't retire yesterday, I'm looking for some other meaning in it all.
Historically, many societies divided people up into three generations: childhood, adult, and elder. In Chinese culture, for instance, one becomes an elder at the age of 60. It is a common retirement age for men there. In China, one you hit 60, you are treated as wise and honored. Thus, my many Chinese friends tell me that I am wise, beloved, and respected. (I have no idea whether they actually
believe what they tell me, but I'll play along anyway.)
But popular as I am in China, I was never able to get my American friends to buy into all that stuff about my wisdom and sage-i-ness. The age "60" really doesn't mean anything to Americans, except to cause depression in the minds of some who think it sounds too old.
But Americans do have this magic notion about "65". And so maybe I can at long last be as esteemed in my own country as I am in the land where I am a son-in-law. My fellow Americans: Yesterday I turned 65, so please note my wisdom and sagacity, forthwith!
I've been thinking lots about wisdom these days because my sermon this morning was on the Book of Proverbs. (Click here
if you want to hear it.) And more than half of that book consists of wisdom-one-liners. In fact, just reading Proverbs made me feel wiser. Now... if I can just get people to
listen to me.
Reading the great tidbits of wisdom found in Proverbs, I realized that I have lived long enough to know names and stories that go with each one.
"The borrower is the slave of the lender."
"Do not associate with hotheads."
"Those who trust their own wit are fools."
"Where there is no vision, the people perish."
"Haughtiness goes before a fall."
"One person sharpens the wit of another."
"A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing personal opinions."
But as I explained in my sermon this morning, the Proverbs is a manual for guys, not gals. It was an ancient instruction book for young men, words intended to shape the character and promote wisdom among the male gender. It was written by men...for men. Thus, the Proverbs bemoan troublesome wives, but say nothing about how hard it is to live with an idiot husband.
In the light of this, if I am truly to be sage-like now that I am 65, I need to also read some one-liners for women. And so I started searching the internet for some.
"You educate a man, you educate a man. You educate a woman, you educate a generation."
"A woman is like a teabag: you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water."
"Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition."
Then, being a man, I started to get depressed, which is something wise people should avoid. So, it occurred to me: since I am now a sage, perhaps I should not spend so much time believing the internet.
Then it occurred to me that if I want people to recognize my wisdom...simply because I am now 65, that my goal is made all the more difficult by OTHER 65+ year-olds who have pretty convincingly persuaded the world that old people are NOT so sensible. I won't mention any names, but you can simply turn on the news and get a whole list.
Alas, I fear that there is no way to convince the world that I am now suddenly profound, astute, judicious...just because I turned 65 yesterday. I will have to go about the the slow way: following the Proverbs, one at a time, until at long last, maybe someone will notice.
And maybe I should begin by just ending this missive. After all, Proverbs 17 says, "Even fools are deemed wise when they keep silent."