Monday, May 21, 2012

Imagining Old Age

I have been meditating about another way to think about aging, a new paradigm. And my heart is stirred this morning by reading in the NY Times "Metropolitan Diary" about a woman whose sister created suicide because "she couldn't face being sixty."  How very sad.  But very American.

The way we think here is that life is a bell-shaped curve, up from being useless to becoming an energetic adult and working and being productive and active and always youthful and energetic, then aging, a steep downhill fall to being useless again.
[Here, picture that curve in red.]

We may not be aware of this picture in our minds, but we do, as a culture, think that way.  It is a way that emphasizes "productivity," in terms of earning money and other benefits, like fame and power, which are seen as good, rather than something to be avoided.

But you can imagine the course of a human life differently.  You can see life as a slow, gradual climb into wisdom and spiritual depth.
[Imagine that line as a pilgrimage, going gradually up toward light.]

You can think that at the same time as we grow in compassion and wisdom, our life unfolds into the world.
[Like so many colored strands of thread moving into the world like rivers, curling around, embracing it.]

That is a life of connecting and giving that can become richer in a peaceful old age.

Offering birds bits of yarn in a suet feeder for their nests

9 comments:

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  2. This is so beautiful, I love the reframing. I live in a region awash in that first bell curve attitude. The latter two are how I want to live my life and are the type of attitudes and people I want to surround myself with and have around my children. I've run into pockets of that, and now I just have to really interrogate myself why I don't move in that direction...

    Thanks for this, I'm printing it out and putting it in my sketchbook.

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    1. Thank you. It means a lot to me that you put it in your sketchbook. I am playing with ideas for ways to represent this visually.

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    2. What came to mind reading this was the tree roots and branches of a proud 100 year oak...

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  3. I was just telling someone the other day I'm looking forward to getting older. It was definitely met with some less than understanding stares...

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    1. But perhaps he/she will go away and think about it......I do find that sometimes Wun shocks more conventional people.

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  4. Lee of AnnapolisMay 22, 2012 at 9:54 AM

    Thank you so much for this. Although I'm still active and working a part-time job, I awoke this morning feeling every bit of my 72 years. Your reflection was like an anti-depressant.

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    1. I know what you mean about feeling every bit of it - I could go down through my body parts, but you know what I mean. And I am very pleased to think I might ever function as an anti-depressant, and without making anyone fat.

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  5. ...going towards light" is a product of less dependability on your body and a clear sign of maturation of the mind( it intuitively knows where it is going)

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