“The old believe everything; the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything.” (Oscar Wilde) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write – A recent study shows that people, 69 and older, tend to believe too-good-to-be-true promises. Internet feedback shows that middle-agers are conspiracy-prone. If it’s not “the gov’t,” it’s a religious plot, or Wall St. And, of course, it’s nothing new that the young know everything. Haven’t you ever been young? But…beware of stereotypes!
I guess I must still be thinking somewhat like a middle-aged person. I don’t believe in the various conspiracy theories and BS that many of the arch-conservative political groups seem to be trying to spread all of the time; however, I’ve yet to send money to a stranded friend who is apparently stuck in London after someone stole his wallet and passport. I usually tell them that all of my money is currently tied up trying to help the ex-Finance Minister of Botswana get his family fortune out of the country. I suspect that I will take a healthy amount of skepticism with me forever.
I do meet adults from time to time who apparently never grew out of their belief that they already know everything. It’s no longer cute or forgivable in someone who surely should have gained at least enough intelligence to realize how little they actually know. In my real estate business I do run into older people who have become quite trusting of everyone and everything and I try to make sure that I do nothing to betray that trust.
Where are you on the “everything” spectrum? Do you know everything, suspect everything or accept everything? Probably most of us have elements of all three in our personalities, maybe with the scale tipping further towards believing everything as we grow older; although I know some pretty paranoid older people who don’t seem to be able to move beyond the conspiracy-theory mindset. They don’t trust anybody.
I think another thing happens as you age and that has to do with your religious beliefs. Children start out as believers because they want to please others. They say they believe, without understanding really what that means, because adults in their lives may tell them that they should believe. Somewhere in their youth many tend to wander from those beliefs because they become distracted by other things in life that they think are more important. Their lack of faith may take on what they think is a weighty conscious skepticism about everything they’ve been told to believe up to that point – it’s an intellectual rebellion as much anything rooted in their rebellion against all things that they’ve been told they must do or how they’ve been expected to conduct themselves. Many beers are consumed in colleges as that debate rages into the night.
Later, as true adults, a good number return to religion because they realize that something has been missing from their lives. An unfortunately large number, however, continue their life journey without the touchstone of faith to act as a moral compass and comfort through life’s trials. It takes a crisis or some life changing event to bring most of those people back into some recognition that faith is a key missing element in their lives. Some never make it back and that is sad.
For the older people there almost always comes a moment when they finally ask themselves, “What’s next?” Without faith there is no satisfactory answer to that question. So, maybe it’s not so much as Wilde put it, “The old believe everything”; so much as it is that they finally believe something (again). As I age, I don’t sit around contemplating the end; however, I find increasing comfort in the belief that death here on earth is not the end. That’s actually frees me to go on about a productive life and to enjoy each day.
So, what do you believe? You certainly don’t know everything, and you don’t need to be suspicious about everything and you really shouldn’t believe everything; however, at your very core, you do need to believe in something. For me that something is my faith. What have you got?