Wisdom Has No Age Restriction -- No Start Date, No Finish Line

Wisdom Has No Age Restriction
Image by Lorri Lang

Perhaps you've believed, as many do, that wisdom comes with age. That the older you get, the wiser you get. And while that can generally be true, recently so many wise young voices have come to the forefront, that the uniqueness of this belief is being challenged.

The first "wise young person" that comes to mind is now famous world-wide. Swedish citizen Greta Thunberg is inspiring others to take a stand against climate change, both through her actions and her wisdom beyond what is usually expected of someone her age. And perhaps that is one of our problems... our expectation that children are a blank slate, and that we know much more than they do because we are older.

While it might be true that we may have more knowledge, since knowledge is acquired, we may not necessarily have more wisdom. Just look at the world around us... pollution, opioid epidemics, global warming, abuse of individuals, countries, and the environment... I think the results of "adult actions" speak not of wisdom but of something else... perhaps greed, or apathy, or just plain trying to survive in a rat-eat-rat race. (I refuse to use the common expression "dog-eat-dog" because I know of no dogs that eat each other... Mind you, I know of no rats that eat each other either, but I really love dogs and refuse to malign them.)

It may be that in previous generations and tribal cultures, the elders were indeed wiser because knowledge was gained through experience. But these days, knowledge is gained first and foremost from what others tell us... either in school, or in books, or in the media. Our knowledge is not earned through experience, but through hearsay -- after all if you're reading it in a book, or seeing it in the media, you're not living the experience, you're just hearing about it from someone else. So, our knowledge does not generally come with the wisdom that experience generates.

And thus the children and youth of today may now be on equal footing with the adults since they have access to more knowledge than we ever did, and they can get it just by asking their smartphone. Does this make them necessarily wiser? No, but it does perhaps open the door to more insights and "putting two-and-two together" as all the knowledge comes to their awareness.

I mentioned Greta Thunberg earlier... she's only 16 years old. Greta wasn't even alive in the century that the majority of us are most familiar with. (See below her interview with Trevor Noah of The Daily Show.)


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Another "younger person" that I find impressive with her wisdom and gumption is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka AOC). You may have heard her name in conjunction with The Green New Deal, a proposed United States legislation that aims to address climate change and economic inequality. Or you may have heard her name as part of  "the Squad" — four progressive Democratic non-Caucasian congresswomen who were elected to the House in 2018 and became part of the most diverse Congress in U.S. history. (See the video below of an impassioned speech Alexandria gave in October 2019 at the C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen.) 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is another example of wisdom in youth... though she is about twice Greta's age (Alexandria turned 30 in October 2019). AOC is impressive in her clear vision, her impassioned voice, and her "we can get it done" attitude. These are two of today's youth that for me exemplify the wisdom of younger generations.

Another voice, born in 1997, Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person, at 17 years of age, to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. (Video below of her Nobel Peace Prize speech.) At the tender age of 10, she was already an activist for a woman's right to education. This led her to be shot in the head as retaliation by the Taliban in 2012. The 2013, 2014 and 2015 issues of Time magazine featured her as one of the most influential people globally. And all of this before she even turned 20.

These three examples exemplify wisdom in action. Not only do they carry wisdom within them, but they reach out and share it, and inspire others around them to action.

There are so many children who express wisdom as just plain common-sense... which indeed it is. Perhaps the fact that younger people don't have numerous decades of programming to overcome, or perhaps because they have the "benefit" of experiencing first-hand the result of our actions and the consequences, is what lets their inner wisdom come to the surface more easily. They are not, perhaps, concerned about what "others" think since they don't have an employer to placate, neighbors to be on good terms with, and religious leaders to obey.

Whatever the cause of their wisdom, it is needed and most welcomed in this time as we definitely need all the wisdom we can get to move us out of the quagmire of modern-day life with its emotional, physical, and environmental stresses and challenges. I am so grateful for their appearance and participation on the world stage.

We can also use their examples as inspiration to help stir the embers of our own wisdom and our own passion, so that we can step forth and play our part in creating a better world -- not just for ourselves, but for the children of today and of the future.

Related Book:

The Gift of Change: Spiritual Guidance for Living Your Best Life
by Marianne Williamson.

The Gift of Change: Spiritual Guidance for Living Your Best Life by Marianne Williamson.We live with an abiding sense of collective anxiety. Marianne Williamson shows how we are paralyzed in our current state of fear and anger because we are not facing and dealing with the true causes of our anxieties and fears. She delivers hope and healing as she illuminates ten basic changes that each of us can make as we learn to view the world through the eyes of love instead of fear.

Info/Order this book. Also available as a Kindle edition, and as an Audiobook.

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About The Author

Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.

Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com

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