When I started this blog a year or two ago, I created three categories that corresponded to my interests and engagements at the time:
1/ “Time, Space, Knowledge (TSK)”: a way of looking at experience that I have found helpful for many years, which I continue to explore, and whose benefits I would love to find a way to share with others;
2/ “Companions in Time”: perspectives on daily life, unconstrained by any particular way of framing them;
3/ “Mailbag”, a place to share other people’s writing (so far only the poetry of Ken McKeon and Michelle in the Trees, but I would welcome other short pieces).
It seems we always start projects with some kind of image of our world, of ourselves in it, and a desire to engage with others in a terrain of shared interest. In the case of writing—although we are always our first readers—there inevitably arises a hope that others will notice our gestures of communication. However the movement from monologue to dialogue does not occur automatically. We have only to look around us to see how stuck our human world has become—socially, politically, religiously—in lonely citadels of monologue.
Recently, I’ve been wondering if I’m running out of things to say. Now that I’m retired and am not leaving the house as much as I used to, I increasingly have to dig into the past to find adventures on which to base fresh insights. And sometimes my TSK reflections can feel like a radar screen redrawing familiar landmarks in the vastness that the TSK vision has the potential to illuminate.
Such limitations can’t be the final word in a life that stands poised on the edge of an unknown future. Pondering this issue, I became aware that a subtext has been surfacing in recent posts: the reality of getting older.
When I was living in Montreal, still in my 20’s—with a half century of memories still wrapped in the mists of future time—I remember reading that it was rare to see a young person and an old person taking an interest in what the other had to say. Now–as I sit on the other side of this opaque screen–I trust that an ageless concern for the fate of our world can arise for all of us and transcend our divided kingdoms.
If I am to communicate better with people younger than myself, it seems that a good place to practice is by understanding my own younger self. However, in order to communicate with my own younger self, I will have to realize that I am no longer that young person who is just starting out on his journey through life.
As they age, people often say that they still feel like the young person they once were. That’s certainly true for me. But to continue looking at the world with young eyes is not the same as bringing an older perspective into contact with a younger one. For that to happen, and a productive collaboration to arise between these two perspectives, we will have to first fully occupy our older vantage point in time. Unfortunately our culture—more than any other in history—works very hard to deny that each of our journeys will end in our personal death. Such avoidance prevents us from discovering a fresh reality that is unfolding before our eyes, one in which we might find that our old dreams have new opportunities to unfurl their wings.
The old sometimes say “Youth is wasted on the young.” But it’s equally true that “Age is wasted on the old”–at least when we deny the changes that aging brings with it.
Life changes seem to catch us by surprise. We may discover–as we become free of certain external responsibilities, such as a full-time job–that our deeper aspirations are harder to realize than the tasks that have for years been imposed upon us. Freedom to fill our new time of life with fresh engagements can leave us missing the old ones. We may also start noticing that our aches and pains, our decreasing range of physical motion, and those missing words that hang stubbornly out of reach, have settled in for the long haul. And for some—like my 95 year old neighbor—pain can be fierce and loneliness fiercer.
These are a few of the reasons that I’ve decided to add a new section to my weekly blog, with the working title “Aging Gracefully”.
I hope that this will help me to enter into a deeper awareness of the time and space through which I am now travelling. I’d like to roll down my mud-coated window and look outside. Perhaps there will be pull-outs where I can stop the car, walk around a bit, and explore paths that I have never allowed myself to notice before.
Would anyone care to join me?