Is growing old and dying a kind of defeat? (Why, or why not?)
Funny that I should draw this question. I’ve been thinking a lot about my age lately. 62. That’s a fearsome number. Sometimes people say I “don’t look my age.” That’s nice. But … I’m 62.
I feel like a child inside though. I feel I never grew up really. Maybe it’s because I still do childish things, like staying up all night, listening to records, smoking pot, playing chess, sinking into novels. The same activities that gave me pleasure when I was 17.
By the way, I do work. I work hard. Just to be clear. I am not a trust fund baby. I have judgment on trust fund babies – adults who don’t have to support themselves, who’ve never had to worry about being homeless. Then again, the brilliant spiritual people say shit like, “If you spot it, you got it.” (Who said that exactly? Pema Chodron? Byron Katie?) Which means that when I’m judging other people, I’m really judging myself for that same perceived “flaw” – and that makes a lot of sense in this case, because I did get a very privileged start in life that in many ways has floated me ever since — what with education, white skin, strong support systems …
But anyway, back to the question. So I was walking through Tabor Park the day before yesterday, our first summery day in quite some time. And I noticed groupings of young people on the lawns around the reservoir – and by young, I mean 20s and 30s – and they were so beautiful and graceful and so keyed into each other, it seemed, so happy in their ebullient, exploratory, socially intriguing communions, and the only thing I saw that they possessed which I no longer do, on account of my age, was their amazing sexuality, which just seemed to radiate from them in all their gestures and postures and tones of voice and excitement in their eyes. It all looked like sexuality to me.
But it didn’t make me sad to no longer feel so sexual. Because in most other ways, those kids have nothing on me. I feel just great in my body, and in my mind. So maybe I’m not old yet and can’t really answer the question.
Thinking further, however …
I think “old age,” with its connotations of infirmity and cognitive decline, frightens me far more than death. But if death doesn’t scare me – because I can imagine myself letting go – letting go of all my Marc-ness, everything that makes me “me,” all the trappings of this identity – then maybe old age is just exactly that, but more gradual, a gradual letting-go – and I’ll recognize it when it’s time, and I’ll let go of what I need to as I need to, and it won’t feel like a defeat at all. Maybe it’ll even be kind of a relief.
I’m a little amazed that I don’t mourn the waning of my sexual energy. It was so important to me, not even that long ago. And it’s not gone entirely but definitely running on a lower gear. Kind of pleasant actually.
But what I’m saying is, if I can let go of the sexual person I once was, I feel pretty confident I can let go of most other things, and so I don’t think growing old will feel like a defeat. And I think there is no “objective” answer to the question. It’s all about how we feel. So my answer is no, not a defeat.
But then there are still so many, many things that make my life so worth living right now, more than I even want to start enumerating, because it could go on and on. If all those reasons for loving life were to fade and disappear, one by one, what would I be left with? I don’t know, and so the truest answer (that is, my own truest answer) to the question must remain unknown to me, at least for now.
Are you missing hugs?
I would like to take this moment to extend a big warm cyberhug to every reader who desires one.