Does Wisdom Really Come With Age?

08/05/2013 08:15 am ET | Updated Oct 05, 2013

God knows who came up with the notion that wisdom automatically comes with age but my guess is that the culprit was probably someone who felt the need to make aging seem like it had at least one benefit.

If you're one of those people who seriously think old folks are wiser, consider Mitch McConnell (71) or Dick Cheney (72) or Antonin Scalia (77). Or explain to me why anyone would give wisdom points to Wayne LaPierre (64) or Pope Benedict XVI (86). And somehow, when I see Prince Charles (64) in action, the first word that springs to mind is not "gravitas." Kim Kardasian is still young but I doubt wisdom is on the agenda when she hits senior citizenship.

Sure, there are a lot of people who were wise when they were old -- Einstein, Moses, Lincoln -- but these guys were already on the wisdom train when they were young so they don't count. They just got wiser when they got older, just as cheese gets ripe with age. On the other hand, Einstein allegedly forgot to put on his trousers before he walked to class; Moses wandered around in the blistering heat for forty years without stopping to ask for directions; Lincoln's taste in theater wasn't really that sophisticated.

When most of us were young, we operated under the premise that we were immortal. Death was something that happened to other people. That delusion doesn't qualify as wisdom but in some ways it's a wiser way to live your life than knowing that the death knell is getting louder. Perhaps we are born with wisdom and gradually lose it as we age. With old age comes confusion.

Here's some wisdom I've picked up -- I'm not immortal. My dermatologist's new Tesla offers vivid testimony to that little pearl.

I've learned some other things too although I'm reasonably sure they do not fit the definition of philosophical depth that wisdom implies. After years of experience I know, for example, that it's a really good idea to make an appointment before visiting the DMV; I know that the position of the toilet seat is important to women; I am now wise enough to realize that wearing a white shirt to an Italian restaurant invariably guarantees that one will spill tomato sauce on it; I know that Speedos have no logical reason to exist; I have also become aware that most pay-per-view movies are not worth $5.99.

Sure, that kind of wisdom derives solely from experience; real wisdom exists on a much higher plain. For example, do I have a clue about the meaning of life? Do I have any penetrating theories about what happens after we die? Do I understand why life's ups and downs seem random and often unjust? Do I comprehend human nature? Do I have an answer to the cosmic enigma of why women who wear stiletto heels don't fall down more? Do I know why socks disappear and where they go? No.

Maybe, one day soon, the lightning bolt of wisdom will strike. But it better make it snappy because I am wise enough to perceive that I am not getting any younger.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

50 Things Every Woman Should Have And Know By 50
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