– How old are you tonight?
– How old do you think I am, babe?
Vasco Rossi, a popular Italian singer is certainly not a professor of the relativity of the time. However, sometimes even pop songs help trigger reflections that go beyond the four and a half minutes of 1998 “Quanti anni hai”.
We are not just an age. At least, we don’t just have the age as it is shown on the ID card.
In that kaleidoscope of experiences, emotions, impulses, knowledge, interests and activities of which we are made, different aspects of us coexist, each contained by the same physical case – the body – but each with its own specific history and specific maturity and awareness.
Have we ever wondered who is talking and what comes out when we open our mouths? It is an interesting practice, which can also be done when we are listening to an interlocutor. It reveals so much of our roots; and says a lot about our evolutionary stages.
Just like in nature, our system also goes through what we might call state changes.
The end of studies, for example. It does not mean that we will no longer study or that we will no longer read anything, but certainly, when our system has to retrieve some notion learned in books, it will go back to the age it was when it was studying.
The passage into “adult” life, the beginning of a job and with that the acquisition of new skills, starting a family, leaving the house where we were born, the death of people we were close to…
There are a lot, but not so many, of those moments that indelibly mark us in the flow of time and make us the individual we are: the here and now in which we believe we are, fully becomes thus a dimension in which our historical components, those of which we are aware and those that have marked us, emerge.
So it could be that when a middle-aged individual opens his mouth, it is the 10-years-old boy who has not cultivated that specific sector of his existence since that day that is actually speaking.
It could well be that it is not the seventy-years-old man but the twenty-years-old boy who lives in it who left the house years ago to administer pearls of wisdom to the new generations.
The human being is an extraordinarily complex and fascinating system, which lives in an extraordinarily complex and fascinating dimension, which we can call life, in which he experiences an extraordinarily complex and fascinating phenomenon that is time.
It is physically impossible to carry with us every single experience that has led us here. We are not capable of that. To make our trip present to us and to be able to communicate it, we necessarily carry out a summary operation. As if from a polyphony that has lasted since we were born, we only extracted samples, pieces that we believe are significant.
It is good to remember this, in every context in which we live. Because sometimes our years or the gallons of our state of service or the roles we play (or worse, we think we have), make us forget not only that we are all still and always traveling, beings in transformation. But worse, they make us lose sight of the fact that in many aspects of our existence (if not all of them) we are newbies.
And also on the tatami … How old are we (in martial practice), tonight that we go to train?
We are kids, even the most experienced ones. And anyway we are younger (usually) than sensei.
An this leads to three final considerations.
The first: we are all young, inside.
The second: one of the qualities of youth is the ability to explore the potential. We are each responsible for investing in this potential, for walking towards the full growth of our own identity. History is full of positive examples from this point of view and this does not depend on physical age.
The third: awareness of our being kids in many dimensions of our life is a useful breakfast in which we eat humble pie so we can grow. It is also a good antidote: trained hearts and ears can perceive if in front of us we have a person who talks to us drawing on the richness of a maturation path or if it is yet another baby chicken looking for some gratification, a child compressed in the body of an adult.
How old are you tonight?