The Art of Growing Older

TheFavorite

 After nourishment, shelter and companionship,

stories are the thing we need most in the world.

~Philip Pullman

 

Much of our culture surrounding issues of aging is devoted to denial of it.  Eternal youth is packaged and promoted in many forms- miracle foods, miracle creams, miracle pills, miracle claims…60 is the new 50. Our emphasis is on anti-aging.

Anti-aging. Now there's an oxymoron. Aging (according to American English dictionary) is the process of becoming older. When that process ceases we are no longer alive.

But, in a culture that medicalizes the natural process of aging as a disease process, the term anti-aging becomes the vocabulary for the myriad of cures with which we seek to arrest, reverse and eradicate that process. We have an extraordinary aversion to aging. In media and business cultures enthralled with youth, aging is waning power. Rather than seeing experience, wisdom and beauty, we are trained to see weakness, irrelevance and ugliness.

The inescapable fact is that aging and all matters related to it remind us of our mortality. We are frightened of becoming weak and needy, of losing our minds, our mobility, our health and our independence. We dread becoming a burden on family and friends. Is it any wonder we deny that which what fills us with dread and fear?

Yet by averting our eyes and avoiding the conversations, we deny ourselves the very awareness and attention with which we might cultivate a cultural shift. Changing what we look at, what we see and what we value in such a way as to create opportunities for our aging parents that might be something they and we might want for ourselves - that could evolve into something even better for our children.

Imagining new ways requires expanding and changing our consciousness - starting with the language we use: The Aging Crisis, The Aging Tsunami, Aging-As-National-Security-Threat, are fatalistic, unempowering terms. They portend the inevitability of a diminished future and they reinforce fear. But there are many other stories - true, hopeful, inspiring stories that are happening all around us right now. I believe that sharing these stories can help move us from a diminished future to an expanded now.

David Brooks, NYTimes columnist wrote in an Op-Ed piece, “On Conquering Fear”

"A story isn’t an argument or a collection of data. It contains multiple meanings that can be discussed, questioned and reinterpreted. Storytelling becomes central to conquering fear. It’s a way of naming and making sense of fear and imagining different routes out. Storytellers expand the consciousness,"

I envision this blog space as a place to imagine the possibilities of what a paradigm shift would look like.  A place to pay attention to people who are telling their truths in books, film, and various media, people who are moving our cultural perceptions and expectations of what it means to grow and mature. The Art of Growing Older.

 

Nachman_Tamir_with_his_grandfather,mother&daughter

 

My father had decided to teach me how to grow old. I said O.K. My children didn’t think it was such a great idea. If I knew how, they thought, I might do so too easily. No, no, I said, it’s for later, years from now. And, besides, if I get it right it might be helpful to you kids in time to come. ~ Grace Paley, "My Father Addresses Me on the Facts of Old Age"