SOME time ago, it seemed to be the custom for schools in Japan to become sister schools with a school in the West.
A school run by the Ursuline Sisters in Sendai wanted to become our sister school here at St Rita’s. As principal, I was invited to their school to see how students from both of our schools would be able to interact.
As we toured the country there was one small scene that has remained with me along with the beauty that one cannot help but imbibe in that country.
We must have been in a park where there were many fir or pine trees.
I was fascinated by the fact that their lower branches were held down with wire.
On asking why, I was told that on young trees the branches pointed upwards, but on older trees they were more horizontal and the really old ones had their branches sloping downwards. This gave the impression that the trees were old and I was told that old age was greatly respected here.
How differently is age treated in our culture here today.
Some people spend fortunes trying to maintain their youthful appearance.
Life is geared for the young.
In some instances, it is almost as if the aged are discarded as we would discard some out of date object. Yet the aged very often have a lifetime of wisdom.
Each age has its own strengths. In our youth we have energy, enthusiasm and a desire to create and learn.
We need to harness that energy and enthusiasm so that it is used to make our world a better place. Our bodies are fit, our minds alert.
In middle age, whenever that is, we are busy looking after our families and often caring for older parents as well.
We have become the stabilising centre in our community.
As we mature and the responsibilities lessen, we have more time to listen to the voice within. Our vision, at least spiritually, seems to be clearer.
A few weeks ago, I happened to turn on the television just as Zeffirelli’s Brother Sun, Sister Moon was beginning.
What amazed me was that I realised that I was seeing more depth to the movie than I did when I first saw it about forty years ago.
The forty years that I had lived from that time to now gave me the wisdom to see life just that much more clearly.
A liturgical/reflective composer is part of our worshipping community who has created several of the beautiful hymns that we use in our liturgies.
One day, I asked him if he felt proud, in the good sense of that word, when we used his hymns in our liturgies.
We spoke about this and then he said that it was only now that he really understood the words that he had used in the various hymns.
That statement blew me away. But then I thought of my Brother Sun, Sister Moon.
I realised then that he was referring to the wisdom that comes through living.
Our lives are a search for something beyond the mere human.
For us, it is our God.
The aged are able to look back at the journey that their life has taken – the people who have been part of their journey, the places to which they have journeyed, the challenges that they have faced, their failures and their successes.
All of these have left their mark on us.
The various lines that cross our faces tell the stories of our lives.
They have been years in the making and we should treasure them.
Our bodies may be a bit creaky and we may be a bit slower in our movements; but we have managed to reach the age that we are.
Although we may not think of ourselves as wise, our wisdom has been growing bit by bit.
The young, if they are lucky, will one day reach the age that we are now. They, too, will have lived and so amassed wisdom that they will be able to impart to their young.
I often look into the mirror and it is my mother who looks back at me. She is still sharing her wisdom with me.
At school, there is one landmark that seems to have been there forever – our Moreton Bay Fig tree. It would have been there prior to 1885 before any building had been erected on this site. If only we could speak “tree language” just think of the wisdom that our fig tree would be able to impart.
It has seen so many come and go, been privy to so many secrets shared under its protective branches.
Speaking about wisdom, the writer of Proverbs says: “She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy.” (Proverbs 3:18)
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