Am I Old?
“Aging is no accident. It is necessary to the human condition, intended by the soul. We become more characteristic of who we are simply by lasting into later years; the older we become, the more our true natures emerge. Thus, the final years have a very important purpose: the fulfillment and confirmation of one’s character.” - James Hillman, The Force of Character and the Lasting Life
In later middle age, financier and philosopher Bernard Baruch said, “To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am!” Then, on his 86th birthday, he told celebrants, “Old age is always 10 years older than me.” I imagine by the time he died at almost 95, he would have said old age is 5 years older than he was. “Old” is not a badge we wear courageously.
“For old people,” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in her book on aging, “beauty doesn’t come free with the hormones, the way it does for the young…It has to do with who the person is.” Maybe aging is similar to how Michelangelo sculpted—strip the rock away to reveal David.
What if our aging process is meant to reveal the beauty and soulfulness that has always been trapped inside us? Perhaps, if we recognized (and accepted) that our inner beauty becomes more vibrant as we age, fewer of us would worry about being old.
Unfortunately, most of us only see ourselves in comparison to those around us.
Deep down, we know relatives make us miserable. And I don’t mean your in-laws. I mean that instinctive need to compare ourselves relative to others—a place where we will undoubtedly find ourselves lacking in some way, especially as we get older.
What’s the solution?
Well, the opposite of “relative” is “absolute,” which is beautifully defined as “not qualified or diminished in any way.” What an exquisite way to think of our relationship with our age.
We are absolutely who we are!
Credit: artist Charlie Mackesy, “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”