As people age, “something special happens to reality,” wrote Romano Guardini. “Its hardness is softened by the experience of transitoriness. Persons who once seemed indispensable die. One after another disappears — parents, teachers, onetime superiors first, contemporaries next.”
In Maria Konnikova’s Oct. 6 Ideas piece “This, too, shall pass,” the feeling that one’s identity is not “permanent” is said to help people achieve understanding of otherness. Age-related experience was not mentioned as a source of this knowledge. But perhaps one’s realization of the instability of identity promotes the kind of wisdom that some older people possess — greater kindness and sensitivity, greater respect for differences.
It behooves younger people then to soften their attitudes, anticipating that in time they will lose their own special elders.
The writer is the author of “Agewise: Fighting the New Ageism in America,” and is a resident scholar in the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis.