Garrison Keillor wrote the words in the title of this post. If you’re young, you may not get it. If you’ve been around a while, I suspect you will.
The danger, at least from my perspective, is that you get carried away with stories when you get older. You know what I mean: telling the same stories, over and over, each time stretching them out just a little longer. I suspect most of us over the age of 60 have done it.
I’ve caught myself doing it. I always regret it (assuming I realized it). I wish the bored but polite listener would have stopped me.
So what’s the antidote? New experiences, I suppose. You have to have new stories to tell, and the only way to have new stories is to have new experiences, although I suppose acquiring new audiences is another option.
But that’s not the larger point Garrison made. The larger one concerns answers. Garrison suggests you lose them with age.
His quote came to mind recently because, particularly after the presidential election, so many people are acting as though they have all the answers. It doesn’t matter what the question is. They have the answer.
I’ve noticed that older people, that is, baby boomers (my generation) and their parents, are some of the worst offenders, assuming you agree there is something offensive about it.
Life is complex, Vera — far more complex than we like to think it is, perhaps because a sense of complexity and uncertainty creates anxiety. Perhaps, simplicity is a coping mechanism we all need from time to time.
There are so many interdependent moving parts. If you don’t believe me, study macroeconomics. And then ponder how their economic models usually fail. It’s hard to capture vast complexity in models. Apparently, it’s even harder for people to admit it.
Personally, I like the fact that answers become more fleeting as one ages. It’s liberating.
Of course, Garrison’s sentence is more complex than it might first appear. Note what Garrison didn’t say. He didn’t say there wasn’t truth. Or wisdom. And he certainly didn’t suggest the stories weren’t important.
Are they? What do stories carry? Only memories? Or something more?
Each of us has a story. Or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say, each of us is a story.
We live it. Often, we have no control over the pen. The story carries us. Sometimes, we carry it. We choose. We turn right instead of left, face one person instead of another. But often the pen has a mind of its own.
Vera, you undoubtedly will wrestle with life’s big questions as you grow older and acquire the urge to understand. What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Is it important? What obligations, if any, do we owe to one another?
In the writing of your story, you will have no better luck answering some of these questions than the sea of humanity that has preceded you. You will discover, as have I, that often there are no answers — just stories.
Yet not all stories are the same. Some will pass quickly by. Others will linger. Some may even enter you and write their words on your heart.
Are these words answers? Who knows? It may not matter, for when they become yours, they become your story. And if anything in life means anything, surely it must be our own stories.
It is who we are.