Recently a friend was told by a medical professional that some pain she was experiencing was part of the “normal degeneration” that comes at a certain age. Many people automatically accept this notion of inevitable decay – that the human life span has a definite limit and that as we approach it, there is a natural decline.
Yet it is becoming increasingly accepted that those who choose not to place limits on their abilities tend to remain active well past an age when most men and women stick themselves in the “timeout” box. Most of us probably know of individuals who have thrived in their advanced years, including centenarians such as Marvin Kneudson. He said in an article titled “7 Life Secrets of Centenarians,” “The trick is not to act your age” (Forbes.com, Aug. 20, 2013).
The fact that mental attitude has an effect on health isn’t new. But the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, offers a more probing and invigorating perspective than usual on the topic of aging in the textbook of Christian Science, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” Following the lead of the master Christian, Christ Jesus, she understood that life is truly spiritual, and need not decline. Starting from the spiritual standpoint that life is eternal, she discovered that we can live our lives with a greater sense of freedom over the assumption of degeneration, and find healing of many infirmities associated with aging.
The first chapter of the Bible establishes why man – a generic term for all men and women – is spiritual. It is because man is the image and likeness of the eternal God, who is divine Spirit. And it would stand to reason that a spiritual creation would have no expiration date, but rather, as it continued to evolve within an eternal framework, would be constantly progressing and developing. The only thing that would limit us in terms of abilities would be our own thinking based on material assumptions, including a belief that our capacities were inevitably diminishing. Science and Health points out: “Except for the error of measuring and limiting all that is good and beautiful, man would enjoy more than threescore years and ten and still maintain his vigor, freshness, and promise” (p. 246).
Men and women today are experiencing this firsthand. For instance, one woman was healed of a degenerative condition that seemed irreversible (see “It’s never too late to experience healing,” April 17, 2018, CSMonitor.com). In the case of my own family, when my mom passed on a number of years ago, my dad was completely bereft. For a time it seemed that he lost the will to live, as he couldn’t see how life held the possibility of joy and beauty without her. One day during a sort of “pep talk” with him, I quoted some uplifting words from Science and Health that reject the notion that each day brings us closer to decline: “Each successive stage of experience unfolds new views of divine goodness and love” (p. 66). He had seen this throughout his life. New opportunities, loved ones, and fresh ideas had presented themselves to him. So we talked about that, and how there was no reason to believe this would stop now. And while it would require him to look for and embrace the new and beautiful experiences that God would certainly present, he could be sure there were many new blessings in store for him!
As we continued to talk about this over the next few months, I began to see hope growing in him and a willingness to let go of the idea that his life was over. That winter, my dad moved into a new and more active community, lost several unwanted pounds of weight, and said he was moving better on the tennis court than he had been in years. He made a host of new friends, including a woman that he is now enjoying sharing his life with. Later we talked about how it was his shift in thought and his willingness to embrace the continuity of God’s goodness that led to the complete turnaround in his life.
Science and Health says, “Life is eternal. We should find this out, and begin the demonstration thereof. Life and goodness are immortal. Let us then shape our views of existence into loveliness, freshness, and continuity, rather than into age and blight” (p. 246).
We can begin today to think of life in this completely new way, and know this true, spiritual life never declines. The good that God, who is divine Life, gives us is endless and ever unfolding.