Why I Don’t Believe Older People, or 10 Cruel Truths They Forgot to Tell Me

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9) What we own does not determine what we are like

“Look at that, the Nováčeks have got a new car, they must be doing something right.”

“Look at that, the Bartáčeks dress like scarecrows, they must be idiots.”

Superficial judgements are made by superficial people. Things are things and they have nothing to do with our character. It sometimes seems to me that “status” people are real estate agents or car salesmen. They are indicating that if I own something good, I will be worth it. They do not admit that I could get by with less things and that I don’t need more. That maybe I don’t spend that much time on expensive activities only because my values don’t cost so much. Maybe I don’t have the latest S series, but neither do Warren Buffett or Ingvar Kamprad. Are they worse people?

We live in a commercial culture. A rabbit in an advert, a celebrity in a fashion journal and the hero of a new series tell me how I should look, what I should buy and what product with preservatives and chemicals is “in” and healthy this week. What about creating a personal culture? What about filling public holidays not with experiences that are worth it according to retailers, but according to us? What if this time we let people into our home that are not separated from us by the glass of a television screen? People we can talk to, that will help us when we need it, that are—believe it or not—alive!

Obviously, I am worried that I will not manage to gather all the property and goods that shout out at me from television ads and billboards. But I am much more worried that everything I have and can pass on to my descendants will be outside of me, not in me. That even if I buy everything in the world and make an impression on all the adults in the world, I will not obtain the regard and respect of a single small child.

10) Everything is changing, at every moment

Older people taught me that if you have something at one time, nobody will take it away from you.

That if you make it to the top, nobody will kick you down.

That if a person trips once, he will be weighed down with it his whole life.

To summarise, they were right that I was naïve. Not in terms of what I wanted, but in terms of thinking that listening to them was a good idea. It is the complete opposite. Nothing in the world is permanent. What we have today can be what we had tomorrow. Things change, often in an unmanaged and spontaneous way. People and circumstances come and go. Nobody’s life stands still. On the contrary, it’s a rush from peace and quiet to chaos. Even fractions of a second change human lives.

Nothing lasts. But there is no reason to regret this. Whether our present is good or bad, it is always changing. This is good. At least it teaches a person to enjoy the good days while they last, and not give in to depression on bad days. Let’s be thankful for change; each one teaches us something new. This might not be evident immediately, but we’ll see later that it was worth it.

© Petr Casanova