I was interrupted this week by a thought that seems to encompass in its simplicity some of the mystery of life surrounding the passing of years and the very act of aging itself.
There is first of all the temporal—the plane of existence that we currently inhabit. The temporal is a part of another plane called the eternal—a place of being that all the rest of what we find around us is a part of. The eternal has always been and will always be. As far as we know it has no beginning and no end.
So yes, our brief journey here on earth is a part of all that is and ever more will be—what we sometimes call reality.
The very moment that we are born into this human form, the process of life begins and within that process is growth and aging—then death and after that life immortal.
All very other-worldly and not even close to where we seem to live on a day to day basis.
And to think that these very thoughts began as I looked into the mirror in my bathroom one morning last week.
Most of us know by now that a person doesn’t need anyone else to tell them that they are getting older. It is a process—one that begins with the most banal (where are those reading glasses anyway) and slowly begins to grab our attention as the annual birthday celebrations fade into the background.
We see our friends of many years go gray and begin to get lines and wrinkles in places that are the most visible to everyone. We get pictures in the mail from that last get together and wonder who that guy is with our wives—I am just pulling your leg but you know what I mean—I can’t really be “that” guy can I. I don’t feel like “that” guy must feel.
But that’s not really the point of this little story.
The point is that I can’t let the aging process define who I am—or at least what I perceive to be the negative effects of aging or those I am most culturally sensitive to. Lets face it, wrinkles around the eyes and mouth look alright—almost distinguished—on everybody else but you.
I have been watching DVD’s of an old science fiction series called “Earth Two”. I really liked the series when it was on TV in 1995 and have wanted the complete first and only season for several years. It was something about the characters that drew me in lo those many years ago. The planet earth had become sick and overpopulated and many millions were living on space stations where the young people were becoming infected with a wasting disease. So the search for another place to live was begun and in the process, this small group of people crash landed on another earth-like planet in another galaxy.
The series explores their collective travels across this new and very different planet to a place called New Pacifica where another explorer group had hopefully landed many years before. Of course they meet up with “alien” life forms and all that other science fiction stuff but the series is still—after almost 12 years—relevant and intriguing. What makes it intriguing is what makes the books we read and the plays we see and the lives we lead interesting as well. There is human drama—good guys and bad guys as well as the making of mistakes and the acts of forgiveness after the mistakes are made. There is the sense of community and individuality playing out in an everyday, very existence sort of way.
Sure, they have lines and wrinkles and are working out the aging process in front of our very eyes. But it is the idea of the “big picture” that keeps them focused and continuing their journey.
If I let that man I see in the morning mirror define who I am (getting old and wrinkly) I wouldn’t even get out of bed in the morning. Our job is to see beyond the physical (even though that image is really us) and into the spiritual nature of life.
We must focus on the eternal things—honor and respect and expressing our love for one another through good deeds and so forth (just to name a few). These temporal bodies will wear out some day and if we put all of our hope in them I am afraid we will have missed the boat or the train or whatever else it will be that comes around and collects us for the next phase of our journey.
I am reminded of a line in a poem by Dylan Thomas which goes like this: Do not go gentle in that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And even though I don’t totally understand his metaphor and the rest of the poem let me suggest that there is a lot more life after a few wrinkles and perhaps some flabby skin seem to appear as if out of nowhere. Let’s not let the aging process scare us into thinking that we are not really 25 years old anymore and capable of most anything we set our hearts and minds to.
Perhaps the ride is never really over until we stop looking for it.
This idea was fleshed out at: