Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stay Young and Relevant, By Accepting Ignorance

When I think about children, I think of them as little, present bias hedonists - forever searching for pleasure and knowledge as if in a hurried, life themed scavenger hunt. They want to know everything. They want to do everything, regardless if it makes sense at all. You can also tell them almost anything and they’ll almost always believe you without judgement or reservation.

It’s great!

It’s also quite remarkable and something I wish more of us had. Of course, we can’t carry all this into adulthood. As we age we need to learn about the necessity of planning and being future oriented.  We moved from being hunter-gatherers, to farming, and thus civilization as we know it was born. So, it’s no question that it’s important to be future oriented and think more like an adult; however, in this dash to become a ‘responsible adult’, we stay so focused on becoming an adult that, if we were to look behind us, we couldn’t see what it was like to be a child again. We forget we were once those little pleasure and knowledge seeking hedonists. When this happens we start to grow old, rigid and eventually obsolete.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can still age and not become old and obsolete.

Becoming Obsolete

‘I just had the most amazing discussion with my 4th graders!’, my wife said to me the other day.

My wife teaches art to children aged 5-14. In one day, she sees the whole gamut of development from child to young adult. During this time, something interesting happens. While she has thought provoking conversations with her 4th graders, the conversation becomes increasingly stale up until it becomes practically stagnant with her 8th graders. It’s straight forward what happens here, as someone gets older they become more self conscience and start thinking about what other people think. Of course, this doesn’t stop at 8th grade. As one matures their circle of awareness becomes bigger and bigger, even extending into the future. Eventually, those knowledge and pleasure seeking ambitions are increasingly replaced by doubt and anxiety of the future, or by nostalgia and regret of the past.

What is the consequence of this when unmanaged? We grow old. We grow rigid. We grow obsolete.

This obsolescence not only pertains to one’s emotional state, it’s also pertains to areas such as your career, love and politics. As we age we grow contempt for ignorance - something we once embraced through those never ending ‘why’ questions young children ask. This contempt grows and soon a once embracement of ignorance becomes an embracement of arrogance. One stops asking ‘why’ and stops seeking knowledge. When this happens, they are obsolete. They are passed over, ignored and finally they become emotionally and intellectually rigid.

Staying Relevant

Whatever fear you may carry about  your career, your family or even the state of world affairs; don’t forget, you can stay young and relevant by slowing down your dash toward becoming a ‘responsible adult’ and try to look over your shoulder at what it was like to be that pleasure and knowledge seeking hedonist. You may start to begin asking ‘why’ more often and once again try to stretch yourself  to understand the world around you. When you do this, you may also find yourself becoming less rigid and less old. You may even become more young and more relevant to the rest of the world.