There are a variety of ways that we destroy our ability to occupy, or to acknowledge, our Positions of Influence. But one major way surely has to be the way we think about aging in our 19th and 20th Century Western societies (and how we act on those thoughts). I know there are other societies that honour and value older people, and that we probably did too, before the mental frames associated with modernity took deep root. You may be different in this way, but the norm in this worldview surely is that aging is deterioration.
It’s interesting to me that we so revere youth – so we revere that which none of us are becoming! Isn’t it much more sensible to revere becoming older? I’ve learned along the way that if there’s some characteristic of mine that I cannot change (like being a woman) – it’s a fools game to complain that the world isn’t treating me equitably – I better figure out how to make that characteristic an opportunity. And so it is with aging. I’m aging, so how can I discover the ways in which that is truly an opportunity.
One of my pivotal moments came years ago when reading an interesting little book by Robert P. Crosby “Living with Purpose When the Gods are Gone”. He lists a number of Core Moralities, in response to the question “What goes into the making of a free and significant person?”.
Among his core moralities was The Core Morality of Graceful Aging. He proposed that, rather than accept aging as a tragic experience, that we live life in a way that those younger than ourselves will say “How wonderful it must be to be that age!”
So, he urges each of us “…to ask – regardless of age – what message we are giving the world about growing older. If you’re 23, what message are you sending thirteen-year-olds and eight-year-olds? If you’re 47, what is your life saying about aging? Do younger persons rejoice that you are so alive, whatever your age? Graceful aging is a way of venerating being alive, of seeing purpose in the whole of life – and saying no to the stereotypes that lead to senility and early death.”
My Provocateur Paper “Can Aging be an Opportunity?” asks us to consider what our assumptions and beliefs really are – the first step in the process of mindfully choosing what thoughts will drive our actions.
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.