The unvoiced thoughts and ideas of a septegenarian.




I sometimes ask myself what I have learned.  Usually I am dissatisfied with the answer.  It feels incomplete – as though by the age of 75 I ought to have learned a good deal more.


I have learned to be content with less than perfection. I accept the fact that I’m not going to win the Nobel Prize or be entered in the Guinness Book of Records. I’ve come to understand that my contribution to our troubled word is that I managed to raise three well adjusted kids, all of whom are considerate, honest, caring people. I take some pride in that and am past striving for more.


I have learned how little I know – how little I understand. There is a whole world of unread stuff – a universe of un-understood things – that beckons me every day. I have come to realize how insatiably curious I am. I always feel that even if I taste it, I won’t have digested it. I want to feel about something the way Helene Hanff feels aboutLondon– to know all its nooks and crannies, to weep at the sight of the Towers. I want to be inside the skin of an Israeli whose village is threatened – to be able to intelligently discuss what happened at the Finland Station – to comprehend Joyce, Shakespeare, Descartes and a host of others – to spend hours upon hours inside the world’s great museums and come away understanding something – and on and on .


I have learned that anger and self pity, jealousy and envy are self-defeating. I have learned and appreciate the fact that mankind is one kind and I strive to incorporate that point of view in all I do and say.


I have learned not to waste worry. I know I am too trusting but I have no desire to be anything but.  ‘Parlous’ times are not familiar to me. I have learned to value and take pride in some personal qualities that, some years ago I didn’t recognize. I like my flexibility, my open-mindedness, the things that make me caring and loving, whatever creativity I possess.


One of the most important things I have learned occurred one day on about the 50th lap of a one mile swim in a pool.  Like a bolt of lightening I suddenly realized that subjecting ones self to unpleasant living circumstances only causes one to lose self respect.


On the other hand, I have failed miserably to learn anything about cynicism or skepticism. Essentially (foolishly?), despite all evidence to the contrary, I  believe  good will triumph over evil and that people are basically kind and honest. I have been sensible enough, however, to have taken my phone number off the number/address tracking line and I don’t walk down dark alleys.


I have also failed to learn much about patience and how to control my impulse to snoop.  If it wasn’t illegal I’d probably open other people’s mail.  Nor can I control my tendency to be critical of those who butcher the English language.  I haven’t learned how to participate in small talk nor how to reach out and make friends.


In a discussion about satisfaction I was given a quote from an inscription at the Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto, Japan. It said: “I am content with what I lack.”  I don’t lack the essentials but I am not content with living alone, the lack of enough resources to travel, my medical problems.  I have, however, learned to be content with what I lack.


Surely there’s more – more I’ve learned and more I’ve failed to learn. I’ve yet to determine what they are.


What have you learned? Are you content with what you lack?


Post a comment

Julie Rose


Leave a comment »