Had an interesting conversation yesterday that provoked some thinking about aging and world-weariness. It’s not an exaggeration to state that some people are old within their skin at 25, while some in their 30s are as dippy as a 16 year-old, and it’s something beyond naivety that creates it.

This set me wondering why this is? And what is the long-term consequence of it?

What I think it boils down to is that life-experience is an unevenly distributed asset. Furthermore, the ability to make experience meaningful, to turn events or occurrences into life-experience, is not something everyone does well.

An example. You might be working in a team or crew. A drama occurs and everyone experiences more or less the same set of events. But, some people will leave the set of events only to go through them again at some time in the future, because they didn’t actually learn anything. The more cruel among you reading this might think, “well… this is what they call ‘being a munter’.” But I’m suspicious that some people just have the ability to learn more from experience than others, and especially more than people who limit their world-views to static frameworks.

Another example. Someone with a difficult childhood can become far more worldly that someone with a stable, loving family. But the opposite is equally true.

Both these examples suggest that some people learn better than others, and I would accept that this is just a cognitive ability. Doubtless there are psychologists and like out there who are thinking, “old ground here Tibby… read the literature.” To which I would reply, “this is a blog… who the hell prepares for a brain dump?” Heh.

The import of this ability to digest experience becomes more interesting when you start to speak with persons who have a high capacity to do so, and explains why some people have different age and reaction profiles. (And here is where the ‘wacky’ quotient of the blog comes in)

Something I’ve often wondered about is the mythic idea of immortality. If you live forever, when does life just start to get a little dull? I wonder this now because medical science and better nutrition continues to lengthen our lives, with many or most living nearly twice as long as the average person did 1000 years ago. When “old” is 35, then 70 is ancient.

This is again a well-trod path. Plenty of writers have thought this one through and written it into fiction and non-fiction.

Taking this longevity in to account, people who have a limited, “programmed” world-view will likely live their entire lives making the same or highly similar responses to specific events. Meeting someone who makes a particular action, or speaks a particular way will elicit a programmed response, i.e. all poor people are obviously stupid, or they wouldn’t be poor. In this way they are able to filter and manage social interaction in a way that gives this interaction meaning within their established world-view, though without making this interaction meaningful.

However, persons who are highly responsive to interaction, and adaptive, will likely produce a range of different reactions to their social interaction as they age. They might accommodate other peoples ethnicity or gender in a given mise en scene for example, and react accordingly.

That said though, there are only ‘so’ many different mise en scene available to us. Sooner or later an individual, unless they are highly mobile, will eventually encounter the same type of person speaking the same memes or possessing the same concerns, and our reactive individual will in effect experience ongoing deja vu.

And if you live forever, or at least live long enough to feel as if you have lived forever, would that not weary you? Wear you down?

Worse, what if you constantly encounter programmed individuals, with a paucity of reactive thinkers in your society?

In a way, wouldn’t you welcome death when it eventually came? Wouldn’t you accept that the world has little else to offer you, when you have seen what the world is, time and again? If you were condemned to live forever, wouldn’t you in effect be condemned to an endless deja vu of events and people, each mortal learning again what their predecessors had? And perhaps badly?

But this made me think that acceptance of the wisdom this entails, and the willingness to accept that there is sometimes little else that one can contribute to the world, is perhaps a better place to be as a person reaches the end of their life. Immortality is of course a myth, and we must all confront our own end in time, but perhaps having been a realised individual will make that end easier when it comes, and prevent an unseemly clutching to life; a grasping, desperate end.

(image: ‘Weary’ by Sue McNiel Jacobsen)