Sunday Snippet: Colin Grant

“And the old adage that with age comes wisdom is not true. With age comes the veneer of respectability and a veneer of uncomfortable truths.”

We all like to think that we get a little bit wiser with each passing day. We like to think that we learn from experience, gaining those extra touches of wisdom by suffering through our failures and celebrating our successes. We look upon the younger generation with a sense of quiet resignation, sighing over the ignorance and unbridled overconfidence of youth. Kids these days, right?

For better or for worse, wisdom never was and never will be a given. Just because you are older, just because life experience has you a little worse for wear, does not mean that you are any wiser. And when you think that you’ve got it all figured out, you later realize that you knew nothing at all. And we can’t all look to the wise man on the mountain for sage advice and profound insights either, because it could all be a facade.

When you were a child, whether you were willing to admit it or not at the time, you probably looked up to your parents. You assumed that they knew what they were doing, but let me let you in on a little secret: they were mostly making it up as they went along. They played up this “veneer of respectability,” because they needed to have your respect to be effective parents. The wise man of the mountain is much the same. It’s an act, even it comes from the noblest of motivations.

And this is one of the insights that British author Colin Grant explains in the TED talk embedded below. Author of such books as Negro with a Hat, he talks about his troubling relationship with his father. He talks about growing up in the UK as a kid of Jamaican origin and how this affected the behavior of his parents too. Colin Grant did not like his father, but many years later, he started to gain a better understanding of the man they called “Bageye.”

It wasn’t age alone that brought this clarity and wisdom to Grant; it was a revelation that came from experience, happenstance, and a renewed perspective on the nature of the human existence.