Thursday, November 12, 2009


I have been told that being ready to die is the secret of life.  You know, a coward dies a thousand deaths, a brave man, but one. Living in constant fear limits the enjoyment of the hours, achievements, friends and loves one has.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, contributor  to death studies and ideas, said that dying is easy but that living is hard.  Many friends tell me they are not afraid of dying but don’t look forward to pain of aging and decrepitude.
Visits to nursing homes underscore the lost of functions of the body, functions you might not realize you have.  Little kids are good instructors in the complexity of eating, in the many skills and ability to time the arrival of the spoon at the lips to the opening of the mouth.  Aging can eventually interfere with that timing and the mouth may be opened wide long before the food arrives.  That is just one of the skills that we use every day that can deteriorate on the way to total cessation.
Just as little kids require adjustment of our expectations, so does aging.  We don’t expect a 20 year old to turn the spoon upside down as it arrives at the mouth.  We don’t expect anyone to do that but when a 1 year old does it, we laugh in surprise and adjust our expectations.  This is a person who has not acquired the skills and experience to allow muscles to successfully allow for gravity.  Similarly, the 90 year old may be a person who has lost the skills and forgotten the experiences of how to allow for gravity, even while still realizing the need to do so to achieve momentary goals.
So many people have aged before us, you’d think that we clever humans would have it down to a science by now.  Yet, it is a shock to find one gets dizzy upon standing up, that  one can’t do a single push-up, or successfully out-run a nine year old.  I am adjusting what I consider the basics of my dignity and self-esteem but I have trouble keeping my inner picture accurate.
The story goes that Gautama was shocked at the impact on humans of sickness, aging and death.  Like faith, hope and love (or charity), the black three figure largely in our lives, too.  I am now 70 and about half of the wisdom I have picked up consists in re-framing the picture of myself and accepting (partially) the details that would have earned my disdain at 30.

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