The Wisdom of Centenarians


The Wisdom of Centenarians

One of my morning rituals is to look through and read books with the images of great photographers. My current book is “If I live to be 100. The Wisdom of Centenarians.” In the book there are fifty-four beautiful black and-white portraits photographed by Paul Mobley and interviews and essays by Allison Milionis. I am in awe of the remarkable women and men who were blessed to live such a long life.

Here are some of the stories, where they shared their wisdom.

Margaret Wachs, who was born in 1913, marked her 100th birthday by swimming ten laps to help raise money for her church. She was ninety when she took up swimming. On her good days she swims twenty laps. “I don’t say “I’m getting old”, she said. “I don’t even think that way.”

Inger Koedt was born in 1915. “Not a day passes without her reading the newspaper. Inger attributes her long life to many things: a close family, nature, and a healthy diet, to name a few. Resilience also comes to mind as well as the ability to focus on the positive, even in the darkest days. “Yes, hang on to the good things; don’t hang on to the bad things’, she said.

And there is Clara Anderson who was born in 1905. “In her 110 years, Clara has seen the dramatic effects of war, technological advancements and social and environmental changes. When asked to describe how she felt about various events as they were happening, Clara took her time to respond. “A lot of times I think one way, when I collect data and change my mind”, she said. “So I’m consistently learning. It pays to observe your surroundings.”

I reflected on Clara’s comment after reading an article in “The San Francisco Chronicle” on July 9th, 2017 by Jonah Goldberg titled, “Ignorance and Arrogance Fuel Political Polarization”. We are all exposed to the news, which we choose according to our beliefs. And then we act accordingly. But how much do we really know? The article points out, “It struck me how a lot of our political polarization is fueled by plain old ignorance.” He continues, “The problem is that ignorance, being of knowledge, is a vacuum, and nature abhors a vacuum”. He also quotes Historian Daniel Boorstin, “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge.” To support his point, he uses the words of Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn; “It’s a universal law – intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”

To contribute to the words of wisdom, 110 years young at heart Clara Anderson suggested, “Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut and you’ll learn a lot.”

P.S. Since I am only seventy, my wisdom is limited. But I learned a long time ago that my thoughts and words create my reality. Age does not make you wiser, but your outlook on life, which sometimes comes with age, does. Therefore, I wrote this story thinking about you with love in my heart. Make it a good day and enjoy the images of four wise people, whom I encountered in my journeys.

This book inspired me to work yet on another project. Since my wife and I were blessed to be married for fifty years, I am going to photograph other couples, who managed to be together for 50 years. This project might take awhile. Meantime you can start your library with “42 Encounters in San Francisco.” The book has a side benefit. It might help you to become wiser.

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