We often hear about child development, less so about adult development. There does seem to be an ideal pattern:
- Youth, with its hopefulness and orientation toward the future
- Middle age, with its wistfulness and orientation toward the past
- Elderhood, with its slow releasing toward death
Each stage is necessary and beautiful. In a time where politics dominate the minds of so many people, this ideal pattern can be seen as a problem. As with everything it touches, politics transforms what is beautiful into slogan and tool.
If we can disengage from that way of thinking, however, we can see this progression as a breathtaking tableau. We feel love and pride for the young person setting out with passion and big ideas. We feel the gravity of middle age, and sympathize with the person who longs for simpler times. We reverence the elder, who through some mysterious alchemy, takes experience, blends it with resignation, and works wisdom.
This would seem to be the way most traditional societies saw the progression of life. We might find more peace if we didn’t struggle against it.