Saturday, March 16, 2013
The boy who cried wolf
While I sit around feeling sad, my mind is busy. Busy, busy, creating theories. Oh I love me a good theory, don't you know?
One hundred years ago, the average life span was 50. Many people lived longer, but many also died younger than that. People didn't expect to live on and on as we do now. One hundred years ago, by the time a person turned 30, they made sure they were married, had their kids. By 40, they were rapidly aging and by 50, they were old.
The greatest generation had no idea they would live as long as many of them have. I hope it won't offend anyone who knows lots of 80 and 90 year olds when I say many of that generation have lived past their expiration dates, due to modern medicine. It's good and not so good.
When I approached age 30, I felt some trepidation. As teenagers our motto was Don't trust anyone over thirty. But then I turned 30 and it was nothing.
As I approached 40, I thought, Maybe this is the turning point. After all, one generation before us, Jack Benny's enduring joke was that he would stay 39 forever, because, he said, "there's nothing funny about age 40."
When I turned 40, just like age 30, it was nothing. From 20 to 50, the process of aging was discrete. Of course I aged, but with the high quality food we eat now and great medical care, both modern and "alternative" (great marketing term for modern medicine), also because I don't smoke and have always been active, I stayed in great shape. And I'm not the only one. My contemporaries enjoyed the same expereince.
When I turned 50, I celebrated. Why not? It felt like I had dodged the bullet and would live on, forever young. But during the 50s, aging accelerated. Especially after age 55. Gravity is having its way with me, oh yeah.
At 60, here I am, understanding at last, at a visceral level, that I will die. I can feel it. I will die. What I'm talking about is not the rational thought that life is fleeting and all of us are mortal, it's a sense in my bones and blood that I will pass away.
I can honestly say I have never feared death. Do I fear it now that I can feel its inevitability? I'm asking myself, not sure of the answer yet. One thing I can say for sure is I am not looking forward to whatever it is that will take me down.
Life is, as the Buddhists say, a precious existence. Sometimes I think we have to suffer terribly before we die before we're convinced it's OK to let go. Is that a dark thought? I hope not.
I have a busy work week ahead, a very good thing, I think. When I work, sadness becomes compassion. This knowing, in my blood, that I'm mortal, helps me be kind to my clients, a really nice thing, hey?
L'chaim, y'all. Shalom.