Emotions Learning to grow old: the penultimate test of wisdom

Learning to grow old: the penultimate test of wisdom


Like the old tree, an old man or woman bows, shrinks, resists. And they continue to bear fruit until the end. It is the penultimate test of wisdom we face: learning to grow old and rediscover the infinite paths back to life, to calm, to our own body, to the forest.

It is the penultimate test of wisdom learning to grow old and recognize yourself in eternal moments of love or inspiration. Acceptance of old age and death are the most difficult subjects. We mortals have the dream of immortality, but as the poet William Blake reminds us in his Proverbs of Hell “Eternity is in love with the fruits of time.

This is how we realize, especially in this winter that shortens daylight hours day by day, that we are what we are because of memory, but also because of the oblivion against which we fight tooth and nail to the end.

Every word and every gesture count and there is a poetic immortality that does not lie in survival through ephemeral fame, but in the ability to outwit one’s time and feel young to the end.

Although on the physical plane life is a mountain that rises and falls, with a high point and a decline, on the spiritual plane we are at the very center of time, and to the extent that we understand it or not, we can live like the wise old man or like the bitter old man. More than ever, in old age and winter we look for centuries-old groves that branch out like the dendrites of a brain, welcoming us and enveloping us and prompting us to rediscover the infinite paths back to life.


The ancient Irish codices tell that there was a time when Ireland was divided into four provinces and there was a supreme king who ruled the entire beautiful island from its very center, the navel of Tara.

One day, the Ui Nelly tribe went to court demanding that their territories be reestablished. They claimed that in recent times the royal domain of Tara had been extended at their expense. King Diarmat ruled at that time and, after listening carefully to the complaints of the Ui Nelly, he did not want to speak without listening to the advice of other older and wiser ones.

  • Thus, he summoned Fiachra, the old patriarch, who, after listening carefully to the complaints of the Ui Nelly, did not want to pronounce himself without listening to the advice of other wiser and elders.
  • He called Cennfaelad, at that time Archbishop of Ireland, who, after listening carefully to the complaints of the Ui Nellys, did not want to speak without listening to the advice of other wiser and older people. He thus claimed the presence of the five deans of Ireland, who, meeting in grave council, in their turn avoided pronouncing without first hearing the advice of the Druid Fintan.
  • Fintan, the sole survivor of the universal flood, responded to the king’s call surrounded by a huge procession.

They were all the generations of his descendants, who took their places in that great assembly attended by all the inhabitants of Ireland.

But Fintan refused to sit down until he knew the nature of the question and assured that he was sure to be well received “as the son has the certainty of the welcome that his godmother will give him, and my godmother is this island you are on, Ireland.” Then, seeing him so old, the king begged the venerable druid to show that he kept his memory and wisdom intact.

There was such a clamorous silence that even the birds and the wind seemed to pause to listen, and Fintan’s deep voice began to relate his story: “One day, I was walking through a forest west of the Munster and I picked a red yew berry that I sowed in the garden of my house. There he germinated and grew until he was as tall as me.

So, I transplanted it to the nearby meadow and it grew, until a hundred warriors could take refuge under its canopy from the wind and rain, cold and heat. We lived together for countless years, until one day the tree, pure old, died.

I used those yew containers a long, long time until they got so old, they fell apart. When I wanted to remake them, I was only able to build a cask from the casks, a cask from the casks, a basin from the casks, a shoe from the basins, a jug from the horseshoe, a mug from the jugs and a thimble from the cups. But so much time has passed that today there should be nothing left of all of them but the dust and who knows where it may have ended up! ”

The Druid Fintan then settled the dispute by recounting how the borders of the kingdom of Ireland had been established at a remote time and how they should be administered. But that’s another story that we will surely tell someday somewhere else.

For the moment, we are interested in pointing out that there was a time when old age was a value in itself and old totems, such as the yew, the oldest tree on the continent, were emblems of discretion and wisdom, of tradition.

It embodied that knowledge accumulated over generations that took a lifetime to transmit and was crucial to living in tune with nature and its rhythms, with the territory and the community.

The old Fintan thus represents the living memory of Ireland, he is the guardian of the wisdom of the tribe and the region he inhabits, the umbilical cord that unites past, present and future.

Today, grandparents and their knowledge quickly become obsolete in an increasingly urban and technological society, which lengthens life, but reduces the pension and the social influence of the elderly. The grandfather has even stopped fulfilling his irreplaceable function of grandfather, to act as a forced father.


The “eternal youth” to which our era aspires is condemned to a collective Alzheimer’s, caused by the disregard for the memory that sustains us and the tradition that unites us to the Earth. For this reason, it is necessary to recover the functions and prestige of old age in all its dimensions, because the reference of what they are and what they tell us is essential to grow in a healthy way.

It is also useful to think about what we want to be when we grow up. Undoubtedly, everyone has their own time and rhythm of maturation and their ideal of old age, but we must ask ourselves if we grow in humility or arrogance, in peace or greed, if we become wiser and more worthy or are we becoming one of those? selfish, suspicious and pathetic old men; if we cultivate tenderness and sensitivity and are capable of learning and teaching to live in harmony with Grandmother Earth.

In his book Tales of Power, Carlos Castaneda shows us the “paths with heart” and talks about the drama of an empty and sterile existence: “Men for whom a lifetime was like a Sunday afternoon, this afternoon he left them only the I remember boredom and little annoyances, and suddenly it was over, suddenly it was night ”. But the same author reveals the secret antidote, which is none other than unconditional love for the Earth that allows us to root in an intimate and deep way.

“Only if one loves this Earth with inflexible passion explains Castaneda through Don Juan’s mouth can one get rid of sadness. A warrior is always happy, because his love is unalterable and his loved one, the earth, embraces him and gives him inconceivable things. Without constant affection for the being that gives us asylum, loneliness is desolation. ”

My friend Amable, who at 93 years old continues to plant trees as if he were going to live forever, the other day expressed his loneliness without desolation with a lapidary phrase, like all his: “I no longer have anyone to ask anything.”

At his side we realize that parents, elders, must be lived now; When they leave, all the questions arise that they can never answer and the affection that can no longer be manifested. For those of us who do not believe in reincarnations, ghosts, hells or paradises, perhaps especially for us, there is an afterlife that drives us to learn, teach and enjoy passionately.

The old man who knew how to grow old continues to “plant trees” that will not be for him; he has learned to distill the superfluous and to choose and propagate the seeds of the essential to be more flexible and tolerant as well as rigorous to stop trying to change others and the world and be content with contributing a grain of sand.

MindFixes Staffhttp://mindfixes.com
MindFixes is dedicated to promoting mental health, preventing mental disorders and advocating, educating, and serving all people with mental and substance use conditions. MindFixes is determined to persevere, learn, grow, love and laugh through our wellness journey and we invite all to join.


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