Experience is a funny thing, simply living for x number of years does not give you experience, it is what you do and see and live through during those years that counts, but there is also no way to “cram” experience, you have to live through those years.
At 50, because I have lived a full and varied life, no 35 year old can hope to hold a candle to me in the experience stakes, and in fact many septuagenarians and octogenarians can’t beat me for experience either… having said that, there are many 70/80 year olds who have lived full lives, and I can’t hold a candle to them in the experience stakes, and notably, nor will I ever be able to, unless I gain a lot of experience in the next 20/30 years, which is not a given, by any means... no siree…
Experience is not just living through stuff, experience is also about learning and education, you simply have to learn enough about many subjects to grep what your other senses are experiencing, I was hit between the eyes today by a poster on The Spearhead, this man is a practising lawyer at the very least in his late forties, and he thinks the moon landings were faked, and finds any other belief as risible as Santa and the tooth fairy.
I mention all this because the experience gap between say someone who has personally squatted in a trench in the Somme and someone who hasn’t, between someone who has contracted black malaria and someone who hasn’t, between someone who has been falsely accused of rape and someone who hasn’t, you get the idea, the experience gap is the biggest gap on the planet.
It is a gaping maw, a bottomless chasm, an unbridgeable gulf.
I once owned a tee shirt, it read “As you are now, I once was, as I am now, you will never be.” but then I was young and thought it was cool, “you may never be” would have been more accurate.
Some of the best workplace advice I ever got was from a man in his seventies, “You can say anything you like to your Boss, as long as you are not right, that is the one sin he will never forgive.” and indeed life is full of sayings and adages, and as you get older and more experienced they all start to change from being cute to being profound.
The fable of the Scorpion and the Frog is one such example, when you are a child it is cute and cool, as you get older you realise just how profound it is, applying to every human being and human interaction on the planet.
Ah, if only I could give my son the benefit of this experience, but I cannot, because without his own experience it will all sound cute and cool and be ignored, so there is really nothing I can say to my son, only wish him luck, silently, and with that realisation comes greater understanding of my own father, he clearly walked these same steps, and now I walk a mile in his shoes, and with that experience start to understand him more… (and love him more, respect him more)
It is not that I do not care, or do not love, or would not give an arm or an eye to prevent him coming to harm, it is the realisation that the experience gap cannot be crossed with words or communication or reason or anything else, a man will either grow to cross it, or he will not, and if he does not he is forever trapped on the lands on the other side.
Indeed, when you cross the experience gap chasm, you see that the land is not some mythical plateau rent by one vast chasm, but is in fact a series of chasms as far as the eye can see in every direction, with small island plateaux dotted around.
The slashdot poster and lawyer who does not believe the moon landings were real lies many chasms away from me, we may inhabit the same planet and even the same street, but in every other way he is so far removed from me that communication is not possible, in gaining experience we evolve and develop as individuals, so in many ways the experience gap becomes a species gap. I can no more have meaningful communications with him that I can with a dog.
But the earlier point about experience being about learning and education is vital, you simply cannot cross those chasms successfully without learning and education, you can try without and the process will break you, and you will never recover fully from that.
Learning and education has no causal connection with formal schooling, yes, you can get a start in the basics at school, but you need to continue to exercise your brain throughout your life, and simply reading blogs like this and absorbing it like scripture and then quoting it parrot fashion is neither learning nor education, you are still on the plateau you started on, critical thinking, analysis, and constant comparison and reference to the real world are essential, and essentially, the results will be slightly different for each individual.
What I learned crossing from plateau A to plateau B will be closely related to what you learned making the same journey, but it will also be different, just as two horses, dogs or people are different, and this is how those of us who have made that journey can spot you bullshit merchants who claim to have made it, and those of you who are deluded and genuinely believe you have crossed it.
Making a night passage by “Dead Reckoning” in a small sailing boat across the channel to hit the Bretagne coast (and a very rocky and dangerous coast it is too) at dawn is different for everyone who does it, but nobody who has not done it can fake it to someone who has, or understand it… same goes for running through the tide race at Ouessant, a tide that goes faster than your hull, faster than a man can run, and catch it in spring wind-over-tide with the tide running one way and the wind going the other and it is a rollercoaster ride. The sea is all powerful. You are at it’s mercy and learn respect.
You can’t teach it in a class, or learn it by reading a book or blog, or study it by watching a film or documentary, if you could 13 year old boys with a porn mag would be world experts at sex…
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” This is another one of those old adages that gets ever more profound as your own experience grows, you can’t make people who do not want to learn and cross to new plateaux take those journeys, you can’t make people grow and evolve, you can’t make people experienced, you can’t make people learn and educate themselves.
Even if you could, why, life is too short, my own life is an ongoing journey, there are more chasms to cross, more plateaux out there, and there is a world of difference between greeting fellow travellers, which I have time for and which I enjoy and which benefits me, and wasting time in short supply attempting to encourage horses to drink, or educating lawyers who think the moon landings were faked.
These are the fates we choose for ourselves, freedom is not the choice to be a millionaire and relax on your private island surrounded by teen hotties to wait on you hand and foot, a freedom that frankly none of us have, nor the opportunity, freedom is the freedom, no matter what your station in life, to learn and educate yourself, and anyone truly can do this, no matter what their station in life…
It takes a lifetime though (smile), there are no quick fixes or sudden large rewards, life is a journey, not a destination, don’t spend it all waiting at the bus stop talking to the other people at the bus stop who have no interest in doing anything except standing there and waiting for the bus.