by Leatrice Evanne Asher
The desire to be free of the physical pain of a broken arm, the emotional distress of an aging body, or angst about death, clearly illustrates our inability to accept change.
Aging, in particular, is something many people fear and abhor, and nowhere is the natural and necessary process of aging more reviled than in our Western culture. Many other cultures celebrate the changes that accompany aging¾the wisdom that can accumulate from so many years of experiences, even the delicate beauty in a body that grows old gracefully. We, however, tend to think aging is our nemesis and will use any means possible to retard it. But what we are and the kind of body we have¾at twenty, forty, and eighty¾are all necessary experiences relevant to our growth. When we lie to ourselves about these changes by trying to configure our body into what it was in the past, and then pretend that we are that twenty- or thirty-year-old person, we are also in all likelihood living a pretense at deeper levels as well. Keep in mind that if your body—which is the vehicle by which you present yourself to others and even to yourself—is lying, you probably are too. And most importantly, you are lying to yourself. The tragedy is not just the peculiarity of the plasticized facade, but that we suspend our inner development and preparation for the continuing passages in our life—including death.
An acquaintance once told me that he would rather die early than age. This attitude must affect his relationship with his children and parents, as well as with a large segment of the population he passes on the street. (Does he actually revile all these people who are aging before his eyes?) And what kind of message are we communicating to youth¾that we idolize them and hate ourselves? That we think there is something abnormal about the way a person looks after age twenty? That we essentially are our bodies—and nothing more? No wonder we hate aging: If we believe we are onlyour bodies, then aging is only bad news! If we have not matured beyond the level of a twenty-year-old because we have not worked on ourselves (beyond the stage of trying to improve our bodies or our abilities), then by the time we’re fifty or eighty we will still feel like a twenty-year-old—a dreadfully aging twenty-year-old!
To try to arrest the course of nature in our bodies is like putting plastic flowers in the planter box when the natural blooms start to fade. It’s our thinking that creates the nuances of our physical form, including the need to age—and die. If we want to change that process, the best way to do so is to direct our attention to developing a balanced state of being. Attention to the nature of our thinking is most effective. Our thinking created the form of our present state of being, including all our lines and furrows. Our attempts to alter that process from the “outside” only distances us further from the truth of ourselves.
If we can only love and appreciate life when it’s in its youthful vigor, we will not unfold into our fullness, and we will not comprehend the cyclical nature of life. We will remain half-developed, an entity with no seasons. We will be immature children to our own children—rather than someone they would feel like looking up to. There is value in each stage of our becoming. If we insist on denying those stages, we will become alienated and estranged not only from our body but from our inner operating system as well.