I sometimes award myself the imaginary degree, an MA in Obvious. It’s my way of reminding myself how unhelpful it can be to speak or write about matters already well-known, perhaps insulting the intelligence and insights of readers and listeners.
This tendency may be a personality trait among those of us who have lived longer. Accumulating experience and expertise over our lifetimes—and with an ongoing need to be relevant or helpful—some of us could fall into the relational trap of jabbering about matters that are already common knowledge.
On the other hand, it may also be a relational trap NOT to speak or write about what’s obvious. It’s possible that much of what we know has never been considered by those around us. For example, some people don’t have the foggiest notion about the rights of others. Or their basic knowledge—about law, religion, virtues or relationships—might be minimal.
How does this happen? There’s just too much information out there in the universe, so no one can take it all in. One understandable reaction to the overload: Disregard much of it, even what’s obvious!
That’s where our advanced degrees—earned over advanced years—might be helpful. After careful discernment—listening by another name—we can begin to see people and places where information and wisdom are hidden. Unseen, unknown, obscured by existential noise.
In those places, those of us who are older might offer the gift of clear, observable and useful truths. Words are useful, certainly, but our behaviors might also speak volumes about what’s true, right or beautiful. We who are wizened can function as invited sources of useful knowledge. We can offer obvious benefits to those who ask.
And we can learn from their advanced degrees as well!
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