About 20 years ago, back in the 20th century, I was listening to a philosopher on the radio. He was in his 50s and had just completed his yearly physical exam. As he was leaving, his doctor remarked: "Do you realize that in the last century most people your age are dead?"
Being a philosopher he asked himself the question: "Why get old?" I have been wondering about this myself, but whenever I ask a question of other people they miss the point. Getting old is not a choice. It just happens. But what I wonder is, Are there any advantages to being old?
Last week I got an answer. A psychologist on "Philosophy Talk" announced that there is empirical evidence that age really does bring wisdom. Wisdom is defined as understanding the practical aspects of life. It grows through the 30s, 40s and 50s, then levels off in the mid-60s. It does not decline. It simply fails to improve significantly.
Last week I did something so incredibly stupid it boggles my mind. I have a large student loan debt from art school. I responded to an official looking mailing from a "student loan assistance program." It promised to cut my debt in half. I was suspicious, of course. I tried to call the lender to ask if the program was on the level. I got the runaround. This irritated me to such a degree that I called the number for the "offer" and gave out the kind of information one usually gives a bank when opening an account. This was to set up a complex email account which I could not possibly navigate. Given my aversion to technology going along with the email system is even more shocking to me than my willingness to divulge confidential information.
I was then transferred to an adviser who asked what program I was interested in.
"I want complete forgiveness."
"You borrow the money. You have to pay it back." That is when I knew it was a scam. I happen to know that forgiveness is an option. It is just hard to get.
I promptly went to the library to check out the program. The librarian said it was a scam and proceeded to delete my "account." She advised me to contact my banks and notify them to flag my accounts for possible fraud.
When I tried to call Bank of America they put me on hold for 10 minutes so I gave up. The next day I was waiting for a bus and noticed a Bank of America branch across the street. I went in and talked to one of the bankers. She put the fear of identity theft in me. She said that scammers prey on the elderly because they are less aware and more trusting than young people. This seemed to contradict the evidence of the psychologist. The banker told me that her mother had been a victim of identity theft, so she may have had it on the brain. She may have mistaken me for her mother.
I do not see myself as naive and trusting. On the contrary, I am quite skeptical. So what possessed me to do what I knew I should not? Furthermore, why did I go along with the complex online system about which I knew nothing?
The conclusion I reached was that my life had become so incredibly boring that I committed a kind of symbolic suicide. "Take my identity. I'm sick of it."
I heard that George Sanders, the Oscar-winning actor of the 40s, committed suicide out of boredom. I can see his point. I really have to figure out how to add a little excitement to my life.