Reflections On The Circle Of Life
by Ruby Bayan - 06/04/05
Isn't it just amazing how one morning you wake up and realize that your innocent baby boy is now a grown up man? Mine will be 28 soon, and I can't help but be overwhelmed by how some of our roles have reversed. Over the years, I taught my son the ways of the world, but nowadays, he teaches me.
Let me share a conversation we had about youth, the wisdom of age, and the circle of life. Maybe you, like me, will pick up an insight or two from an introspective young man.
Mother (me): "I saw an old lady walk by this morning -- I couldn't stop myself from thinking that in no time I'd be as old as her."
Son (Dante): "Mom, age and its accompanying aspects only really materialize physically if you let them. Sure, we can't stay 14 forever, but there are some people who are 70 yet look 45, and some who are 45 but look 70."
Mother: "I guess one starts paying attention to getting old when one finally gets old, huh?"
Son: "It depends really on your lifestyle and how you carry your frame (physically), on your perspective and how you seek out things to do with your life (mentally), and on your beliefs and how you choose to deal with them (emotionally). Paying attention is one thing; willing yourself to become something that you don't have to be is another."
Son: "Just because you feel older doesn't have to mean you have to restrict yourself or start looking/behaving 'older.' If you can walk tall, look sharp and argue well, by all means, do so. Don't relinquish to time what time hasn't yet forcibly demanded of you."
Mother: "Yes, I remember what your Grandma told me once... 'Everybody calls me Grandma. When I look in the mirror, I see a Grandma. But I don't feel like a Grandma -- I feel the same way I felt when I was in my twenties.' I suppose it all depends on how you feel inside. Like you said, physically, mentally, emotionally.
"But when the calendar flips onto another year, you sort of find yourself evaluating what you did the whole year... because another one just passed and another one is coming up again. Then for the seniors, it becomes more emotional because it's a reminder that time is getting shorter. Unlike the youth who look forward to peaking, seniors are watching their step and making sure they don't break their necks on the downhill slide."
Son: "Time is always short. Things can happen anytime without any preamble; what's left to us is to enjoy what we have, as the adages go. Young people are reckless because they don't know what it's like to outlive something or someone they care about. That's what really makes the 'older' generation behave the way they do.
"Time isn't the enemy; it's our own growing burden of regret and fear. Regret at the things we've outlived, and fear not of dying but of what else we may lose, and how else we can be hurt. That's why old people are such advocates of taking things slowly and carefully. They let their past experiences weigh down on them."
Mother: "Isn't that the wisdom they possess?"
Son: "True wisdom isn't just the acceptance that things end. That's only half the point. True wisdom recognizes that even as things die, other things are born. The young know this half because they live their formative years constantly experiencing new things--quite literally, new experiences are 'born' to them. Old people tend to believe that they have seen too much, and that everything fades away.
"While everything does fade away, there is no all-consuming blackness. The spirit to live burns brightly in everything, and new things come to be by sheer force of nature. Look at how technology surges ever forward, for instance. It's a living, breathing entity that is more than the sum of the people who cause it to evolve.
"Old people tend to ponder too much on their past. What will truly retain their vitality is the desire to always look forward, to constantly seek new things, different things, to know, to learn, to get caught up in. And people can never, ever see too much. There is a world out there to explore, and a world in our own lives."
Mother: "Up to the last breath."
Son: "The last breath is always the one we have just taken, Mother. It is the last breath until we take the next."
[ Read more of Dante Gagelonia's writing. ]