Looking back over a long life, I see the stages that we go through in highly predictable ways. In our youth and teen years, we think that we are breaking free of old practices that have no sense to them, and that we are a new generation of free-thinkers.
But the truth is, we are captives of every fad and fancy that goes around. Probably no group is as subject to peer pressure as much as teenagers. I was terribly ashamed of the Elizabethian language of my grandfather who said “fetch” and other words that seemed so out of place and time to me. Many well-dressed young men wore spats in the generation just before me, but I doubt if many of you would now know what spats are.
Early adulthood is a time when most of us are concerned about a good job, finding a mate and other rather dull concerns in retrospect. Once we have found a job, a mate, bought a house and produced some children, we come face to face with a middle-age crisis in which we fear that we have made some poor choices and we become dissatisfied with life and wish to strike out anew.
Weathering this storm is a problem for many of us. Many fervid preachers seem to have gotten the call to change their outlook at this time of life. They make good preachers because they have such an intimate knowledge of sin.
Later middle age is fairly serene until we come to a realization that we are at the edge of old age and we start to count our accomplishments and face our failures with regret.
Old age forces us to think of our mortality and this frees us from many of the more petty concerns that once troubled us. We either freeze our ideas into rigid structures or we concern ourselves with a stern re-examination of our lives and ideas.
Most of us (perhaps all of us) lose some ability to think in our old age, but we are freed of many of the hindrances to clear thinking at the same time — and we ought to take advantage of this freedom.
Now let’s see, what was I saying? Well it kind of comes back to me in bits and pieces, but I think we all need to be a little more honest, a little less greedy, a little more suspicious of hucksters and a little less egotistical.
I hope that I have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that we get too soon old and too late smart, or maybe it is the other way round.
Anyway, I have to let you go now because it is time for my nap, and that is the only imperative in my life at this time. Politics only annoy me and make me need a nap much sooner. I do not know what happened to my topic sentence, but it got lost after the first paragraph.
TOBY HIGHTOWER is a retired educator and former Hopkinsville High School teacher. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Write to him at 222 S. 25th St., Apartment 434, Terre Haute, IN. 47803.