04/04/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Old women: the wisest people on Earth

They cannot operate a mobile phone, or use a clutch, but elderly ladies are the wisest people on Earth. You see, they will have led lives for others, and are full to the brim with unfeigned kindness. They have lived so much for their children, and put up for so long with their cantankerous husbands, that they know no other way of being: only patience, love and kindness; never anger or pride.

Parallel parking may be a mystery to them, but they know the mysteries of the heart. They have seen people live and die, many times watched the seasons come and go, and have seen whole civilizations pass and fade. They know that the truth and beauty of life lies in small things: a flower, a newborn baby, a cat.

They are not deceived by the promises of the world: that money makes you happy, not for them the loud and empty glorying in youth, fame or sexuality. Happiness comes in the quiet ticking of a clock, a peaceful cup of tea and a biscuit, the finches flitting in the garden, the buds unfurling anew for spring.

And in their quiet and humble way, they all seem to know the divine, the Great Mind that infuses All. They hear him in birdsong and in the early morning quiet. He hears them too; when their hearts stir for an injured creature, or when they whisper prayers as their grandchildren sit exams. Unlike young seekers, they need not seek, for they are knowers. They do not need to spend years in an Indian ashram to see love in all. They see it always, and are the very heart of compassion.

Old men are great too, but not as wise somehow. I'm not sure why, but this is so. Everyone knows it; don't try to deny it. The difference is perhaps this: old men will spend hours tinkering with a lawnmower in the shed, or sawing pieces of wood to repair a chair. Whereas old women repair minds and hearts. With a smile, they distill the mysteries at the heart of being. Old men sweep leaves from pathways, old women sweep away pain. They live lives of love for their families and friends. They are givers to their last breath.

"But what about crotchety old cows?" you ask. A fair point, and one well made. But an exception does not unmake a rule. Irredeemably bitter and mean old ladies are rare things, inverse desert blooms. An occasional flower does not undo a desert. An island does not make an ocean any less of an ocean. But I take your point.

Except then for crotchety old cows, the proposition holds: old women are the wisest and best of all mankind.

Dedicated to old women everywhere, but especially the young at heart and, not-quite-yet-old, Anne, Margherita and Joan.