“The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.” ~ Albert Einstein
My thoughts on our recent consideration Living from the Inside Out have continued to evolve and I was thrilled to receive a link to a fascinating TED talk from a friend who knew I was following out this line of thought. Professor Alison Gopnik of the University of California at Berkeley presented this talk at the recent TED Global 2011 and I know that you will find her discoveries to be insightful and thought-provoking:
While we’re on the topic of the cycle of life, I cannot help but note that our modern view of time, that is, that time is linear, is a relatively recent phenomenon. For many thousands of years prior, time was seen as cyclical. The ancient Greeks, for instance, generally saw time as a circle, where “ages of mankind” repeat themselves over the course of large periods of history. If you study the rise and fall of empires throughout recorded history, it’s easy to see why such a view would prevail, not just in small pockets of time and people, but in the consciousness of all of mankind over large spans of time.
The present linear conception of time gained sway in medieval times, and many scholars argue that Augustine of Hippo’s treatise, The City of God, set the form in which the cement of our present view cured. The Christian view of an irreversible progression from Creation to Judgment dominated early European history and despite the best efforts of the great thinkers of the Enlightenment, it continues to condition many of our present day thoughts on time.
In my view the cycle of life, the circle of life, need not be as linear as we tend to make it. We need not abandon strategies that served us well in our youth, such as the one that Professor Gopnik outlined which allowed us to learn at a mind-boggling pace in our youth, just because we have moved on in years. Of course our minds do change and refine over time, and we obviously develop the ability to narrow the focus of our attention over longer periods of time as we grow older, but is it wise to bury old approaches simply because we’ve developed new ones? Are we so “above” the past that we cannot employ old strategies just because time has progressed?
You may recall the song recorded by Doris Day and Frank Sinatra entitled “Young at Heart” from the album of the same title released in 1954. I believe that there is inestimable value in maintaining a part of you – in both heart and mind – young and supple. Old age tends to crystallize things: fluid ideas become rigid opinions, elastic fascia becomes hardened and restrictive and so on. In many cases, it is not old age that does it per se, but the beliefs that we hold about aging.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter as well as strategies you’ve employed to stay young in heart and mind. We can help one another in this regard and more than that, we need one another in this regard. Truth and beauty are so vast, so profound, yet we tend to view them through an increasingly tightly focused lens as we grow older. Sometimes zooming out opens more doors to understanding than zooming in.
Fairy tales can come true. It can happen to you. If you’re young at heart…