Friday, August 7, 2015

St. Abstract's Home for the Aged



When something is far away, the distance obscures its differentiating details, blurs meaningful variation into flat, oversimplified uniformity.  Old age is like that.  Until you reach it yourself, it's an abstraction.

When I was very little, I was almost afraid of the elderly.  When a great-aunt would move to embrace me at a holiday reunion, I could feel my entire body stiffen like I was about to kiss Death itself. This is because our society vehemently promotes youth over age.  We've been encouraged to regard aging as a disease and to put off acknowledging it for as long as possible, lest we peer into our own liver-spotted future.

In ever-up-to-date Silicon Valley, thirty is considered old. Thirty. So they're getting plastic surgery to look younger and feel more competitive. At thirty. I suppose next they'll reattach their umbilical cords and submerge themselves in dark tanks of canned peach syrup.

Growing old is inescapable. Our cells will continue to divide no matter how many antioxidants we consume, regardless of how much Lubriderm we slather on.  Moreover, we pay a cultural price when we devalue our eldest citizens and push them to the periphery to gather dust and stereotypes.  In terms the hipster crowd can appreciate, what’s left once you pour all the vintage wine down the drain?

I’m fortunate now to have close relatives and friends who are much older than I. They remind me of the rich insight a seasoned veteran can offer. If nothing else, an older person has proceeded further through the maze and knows where more of its dead ends are.  They‘re mentors who help me appreciate each new ring that time adds to my trunk. I had fewer white beard hairs years ago, fewer random ear hairs certainly, but would I really want to return to the assertive ignorance of my twenties?  Of my thirties?  (I'll be saying the same about my forties when I'm fifty.)

True, lots of old folks become incapacitated, lonely, confused... deceased.  But so do many of the young.  Grow up, already.

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