Aging? Don't buy into it.
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
I'll admit it. I'm one of the pack of baby boomers. My generation is sliding through the decades the same way a rodent consumed by a python creates a visible bulge when it slides the length of the snake.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Endless comment has been made about us baby boomers since we've largely defined each succeeding marketplace as we've grown older. First it was a surge in baby food consumption, then tricycles, followed by Levi jeans, and SUVs.
Now, as we approach retirement age, the graying of America piques the nation's interest. From various healthcare needs and product lines to Social Security benefits, attention is being given to what the country should prepare for in order to accommodate an increasingly elderly population.
I don't know how the rest of my generation feels, but I find myself resisting most of the projections about the state of my health and well-being as I move through the years.
We hear a lot of chatter about anticipated aches and pains, rising costs of healthcare, decreased activity, loneliness, poor eating habits, and so on.
While I'm sure that researchers and companies think they're preparing for what's to come, attempts to convince a whole generation of decline and increased challenges are going to find me rebelling to the hilt.
This rebellion isn't a matter of just rejecting the prognosis. It also includes replacing assumptions about aging flesh and bones with a different perspective of myself and my abilities.
The projections are based on viewing us baby boomers as strictly material. Rebelling against them necessitates viewing ourselves from a different vantage point, in fact, a spiritual one.
Here's how it works. God is our creator, so we are each His ideas. He couldn't have an idea unlike Himself, so we are the reflection of God's true nature. That nature is Spirit, not matter. So man's nature is spiritual, not material. We can gain a glimpse of this if we'll ask ourselves the question "What do I love about ______?" I've often done this with myself and others.
What I find is that most of us can go on for quite a while recounting the qualities we appreciate in another without identifying a single physical trait. That points to the true substance of another, as well as of ourselves, which is in qualities.
Those qualities don't age.
It's hard to imagine that humility or grace or tenderness ages. They are simply cultivated or not. We might forfeit them, however, if we allow ourselves to become jaded about life by holding on to resentment, prejudice, or disappointment. So when we rebel against aging, what we should be rebelling against is becoming jaded, discouraged, hateful, envious, or tired of living.
As we come to realize that aging is mental, rather than physical, we gain real dominion over it. Haven't we all known those who are young at 90 or sluggish at 15? It has less to do with physicality than with how we're viewing life ourselves and others included.
In the book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, I've found lots of helpful ideas to think about regarding aging, particularly on pages 244-248. This statement is a wonderful place to start thinking about age and agelessness in a different way: "Men and women of riper years and larger lessons ought to ripen into health and immortality, instead of lapsing into darkness or gloom. Immortal Mind feeds the body with supernal freshness and fairness, supplying it with beautiful images of thought and destroying the woes of sense which each day brings to a nearer tomb" (pg. 248).
At times, the assumptions about aging are pretty blatant and easy to catch, but at other times they're extremely subtle and require watchfulness. Sometimes they're even humorous or at least my response to them is. But most of the time, the assumptions that come with aging chip away at one's freedom to be and to do all that he or she is capable of.
I find if I nip them in the bud when they're at their weakest point in my acceptance of them, they're less likely to take root in my thought and I don't have to pound them down with a sledgehammer later.
We don't have to consent to keeping stride with an aging generation. Instead, day by day, why not rebel with new views of ourselves as joyful, productive, vital, and spontaneous? These qualities simply don't age.