The Unavoidable Bargain

In my culture, we try to pretend we don’t have to make the deal. But we do.

With the passage of years, we pass from our youth. And if we are wise, we make a sound bargain for what comes in return.

But in my culture, most don’t.

First, they try to refuse the inevitable. They cling to youth and the appearance of youth into their 30s, 40s, 50s, with dress, with makeup, with squats and sit-ups, with various useless patent cures designed to make them continue to seem young.

But the reality is, we have no choice. Unless you are going to die young, you are going to trade your youth–your looks, your strong, pain-free body, your stamina–for something else as you age.

So when it is beyond refusal–when it’s truly too late and middle age is apparent–they make the fools’ bargain: Youth for wealth and comfort: for things.

It’s a choice.

But it’s a hollow one.

It’s very hard, in a world filled with commercial bombardment about the importance of youth and the importance of owning things, to get beyond this illusion. To understand that as we leave our Pretty Period, we enter our Power Period. And there, we can find something far more valuable than riches and creature comforts.

We can find wisdom.

Youth for wisdom.

For a deepening understanding of how to be joyful and effective and compassionate and kind, how to find meaning in moments steadily growing, and connections that extend deeper and wider than youthful you could imagine.

Now there is a valid transaction: a bargain worth making.

So if you’re in your 20s, and reading this…or your 30s, or 40s, or 50s like me…take a moment and think: what am I trading the passage of my youth for?

Who am I now?

2 thoughts on “The Unavoidable Bargain

  1. Spot on! It’s good to have a clear and simple point, and one so deep that there are further details for when one takes the time to look at them. In this case, those further details could include that other things come in the bargain in addition to wisdom. Those include experiences (and the memory of those – in my youth I had never experienced a solar eclipse, etc.), contentment/satisfaction for good things you have done, pride in accomplishments, simple knowledge – both that from study as well as of events (such as “will we ever fly on another planet?”), and so on.
    Somewhat similarly, the “youth” term is nearly a circular term, meaning “the aspects of a person who is young”. But what are those? They are specific things which are usually traded in the bargain. The one on the top of most of our minds is “health” and “a strong, able body”. But “youth” also includes things like needing more sleep, not having immunity to many diseases (gained in the past by our Ancestors by surviving infection), acne, etc.

    But despite these details – “youth for wisdom” captures it all quite well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gretchen Santa Rosa

    Mark, of course you are absolutely right about the many benefits conferred upon us by time and maturity. Most of my massage clients are 60 plus, and I see big *b i g d i f f e r e n c e s* between those who have taken care of themselves and those who haven’t. I’m going to beat a drum you’ve heard over and over, but here goes anyway: dental care, sunscreen, regular exercise, mindful diet, adequate sleep, and a peaceful home really do add up as years go by. So yes, we all age if we are lucky, but aging well or aging badly is a choice one makes every day.

    Liked by 1 person

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