What is the purpose of aging?

What do we do with ourselves when we wake up to the press of time? When one’s physical abilities to excel are largely past? When one’s chance to “be somebody” through one’s children is no longer an option? When one’s opportunity – if not root desire – to make a million bucks has slipped by?

What are we left with? We are left with whoever we are at the core of our beings. We are left with the innate capacities we were born with that define our identities and inform our purpose. Touch these things and we light up. Liberate them and we and others cheer. For the value we now create is real, springing from our authentic selves, manifesting itself in unassailable integrity, showing itself as pure a form of love as any human being could hope to express and be rewarded for in return.

What is the purpose of aging? It is to, finally, leave us with no choice but to strip away the assumptions, expectations and artifices of youth we wrap ourselves in, in the first half of our lives.

Aging supposedly makes us wiser. But it isn’t about wisdom alone – either getting it or sharing it. Aging is about expression: the possibility of expressing the best of ourselves to the benefit of others. Aging strips us of our conventional armor, the comfortable insulation of traditional 9-5 jobs, growing families, late night parties. We have nowhere left to turn but inside ourselves.  We are, in a sense, naked – not necessarily to others, but to ourselves. Aging amounts to one’s last great shot at fulfilling one’s potential as a unique, value-creating individual.

###

Flickr photo by AlicePopkorn AttributionNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved

7 Comments
  • Harry (Rick) Moody
    Reply

    Wise and helpful observations. I would only add that it raises a question which is beyond the individual level (“How do I find my purpose?”), toward the species as a whole. A good answer here is available in the book by Bill Thomas (Eden Alternative) WHAT ARE OLD PEOPLE FOR?

    November 3, 2011 at 8:58 pm
  • Michel Neray
    Reply

    Nice thought. I keep coming back to a quote by the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca: “It takes the whole of life to learn how to live, and, what will perhaps make you wonder more, it takes the whole of life to learn how to die.”

    To me he is talking about stripping things away, giving things up, and letting those things about us which are superficial to die until what we are left with is our unique essence. It is precisely because it is unique that it gives us our greatest opportunity to contribute something new, something unique to others.

    November 3, 2011 at 8:58 pm
  • Gerald Sindell
    Reply

    Beautifully expressed, Larry. Another side of this is that the sooner we can strip away the artifice and understand who we really are, the sooner we can act as our wise selves. Lucky indeed are those that know themselves when still young.

    November 3, 2011 at 8:59 pm
  • Natasha Kern
    Reply

    Your insights are always fascinating, Larry. Another way of putting this is:
    It really does fill you with thanksgiving to realize God blesses us for expressing and using the very gifts He graced us with in the first place. A life of service is also a life of joy.

    November 3, 2011 at 8:59 pm
  • Chris Neubert
    Reply

    Among other wonderful transformations, aging allows us to touch ourselves in places that we fear to go to during our younger days. Honesty with oneself is always the most important game we ‘fail to play’ while growing up, getting schooled and working “on the day shift” [to quote the wonderful poet and songwriter Bob Dylan] and aging eventually provides us the time and space to get there…if we so choose. Happy travels [or should I say ‘trails’] to all of us who dare to take the journey!

    November 3, 2011 at 9:00 pm
  • Clive Chajet
    Reply

    Larry, thanks for giving me something to think about. Aging – to me – is the factor that increasingly influences our conduct and beliefs with wisdom. Wisdom helps us make better decisions about any issue we face and aging provides us with the opportunity to act wisely.

    November 3, 2011 at 9:00 pm
  • Lee Hornick
    Reply

    Well said. Aging to me gives us the opportunity to evolve and express ourselves in unique and different ways every day. Aging is a gift to those that are fortunate and lucky. Or, as Yogi Berra says, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

    November 3, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Post a Comment