In praise of Viewpoints…

I enjoy the opportunity to express my thoughts in these “Viewpoint” columns. A lot of good discussions with readers, clients and friends have been generated. Exchanging different Viewpoints is something I value and appreciate. I learn so much when the Viewpoints are different from mine and conversely, I learn nothing if we’re already like minded.

Much of our “news” today is so opinionated that it allows, even encourages confirmation bias and therefore is a waste of time unless of course one needs constant reassurance. We’d all be better served and more INclusively broad-minded if we shared Viewpoints after turning off the ranting radio hosts and not tuning in the polarizing television “news” channels. We’d then see how much we have in common instead of arguing about our differences.

Seems to me that understanding each other is more important than trying to be “right” on issues that are really matters of opinion, not of right/wrong. Being around dogmatic people is usually boring and unpleasant to me. So, with that oxymoronic statement (I’m being dogmatic about dogmatic people?), I’ll start this month’s “Viewpoint” column.

For decades now, I’ve often leaned on my version of Mr. Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer. Mine’s a bit more succinct: “TAKE CHARGE or be still….” In this usage “be still…” just means patience. Patience isn’t passive. Patience is defined as “the capacity to accept delay, trouble or suffering without getting angry or upset.” Patience is valued in most of the world’s religions and in most philosophical approaches that offer life guidance. I left out the part about “the wisdom to know the difference” because that’s obvious.

Wisdom, like patience, is usually associated with age and experience. I don’t know about you, but my capacity to be tolerant/patient has increased (improved) with age. It’s common knowledge that youth with its raging hormones is considered more impetuous, and if I want some sound, pragmatic, well thought through guidance, I’d usually be more confident receiving it from those we call seniors. (OK, OK, if I want computer technology advice, I’m looking for the nearest kid on a skateboard). What about you? No matter your age, don’t you think you’re a more comprehensive decision-maker than when you were younger? Slower to remember a name maybe but having experienced so much more of adapting to life’s events, just able to patiently factor more in?

What about the “TAKE CHARGE” part? There are many situations that don’t call for patience, situations that require us to act. But we don’t want our actions to be random or impulsive. We want them to be based on knowledge, both innate and gathered; instinct (innate) coupled with intuition (processed sense data). So I’m saying that too involves experience. At some point though, this paean to the value of age-related experience has to concede that a downhill slide does affect most of us. So in today’s world, with life spans (and for many of us health spans) at an all-time high for the human species, when does downhill start? What is old?

For decades I’ve noticed the answer to that is consistent and predictable. It’s about 10 years older than whatever I am. And I’m gonna stick with that Viewpoint.