According to this Wikipedia article, “Ageing and mortality of the individual organism became possible with the evolution of sexual reproduction, which occurred approximately a billion years ago. The sexual organism could henceforth pass on some of its genetic material to produce new individuals and itself could become disposable with regards to the survival of its species.” Since we aren’t single cell organisms, this is our fate. We are disposable.
What does this mean? If we are disposable does this make our life more meaningful? People say the Buddhists are always thinking about death. Yes, and that teaches us to value every day that we are alive. But, as we get older are our lives less valuable, as society seems to tell us?
I ran across this article that talks about musicians. There are many senior musicians who are playing as well, or even better than before like The Rolling Stones, The Who, Paul McCartney, Neil Young and Roger Waters to name a few who are still actively playing and performing. I even see this with Joel who turns 70 next month. In the 27 years I have known him, I’ve never heard him play and sing so well. As the article says “ if you’ve got your health, if you’ve got the desire, if you’ve spent decades refining your craft, then there’s no reason you can’t still do great work.”
I also found the Ageist website, dedicated to studying people over 50 who are living active, productive lives. It is time we respected the older generations for their wisdom, energy, and continued valuable contributions to society.
The article that led me there was this one on Dr Connie Mariano, white house doctor for George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. She says presidents visibly age while in office, but they also live long lives afterwards. She thinks it is the sense of purpose, the feeling that your life is significant, that you look forward to every day and have things to contribute.
I love this paragraph There is an old saying that we have engraved on our wall in our home in Colorado: “It’s never too late to live happily ever after.” Never too late. When I bought my wedding gown 5 years ago in LA, I asked the lady, “How old was your oldest bride?” and she said, “My oldest bride was about 75 and she had to call her mother who was 96 to ask her about the dress, to tell her about the dress.”
Dr Eleanor (Connie) Mariano has a Wikipedia article if you want to know more about her, and she has written a book The White House Doctor. I might have to read that one myself.
What does all of this mean for those of you who are reaching your third stage of life? Of course health is a big deal. If you are sick or disabled that changes your options. But, if you are healthy and functioning, what do you do with this stage of your life?
For me, it’s a gift. I’ve spent my life in service to others which was very satisfying, but I don’t feel that need now. This is my time and I want to use these years to strengthen myself physically and mentally. I want new experiences, to learn more, understand more, and develop new talents and skills. I believe in being generous and putting positive energy out and I certainly want to continue that, but it’s also a privilege to follow my own inclinations and spend my time as I choose.
It’s an interesting time. The body sags and the hair gets gray. As the Doors said in Roadhouse Blues “The future’s uncertain And the end is always near.” But every day is sweeter because of this. I see as more and more of us age, we aren’t going to be treated as second class citizens any more. We are going to fight to be recognized, fight to contribute, and to live fully. We can start with ourselves by staying engaged and involved in life, and by refusing to retreat to the rocking chair for as long as possible.
Rocking in a rocking chair gives me nausea so I guess my only choice is to keep on rocking every other way there is!
I think you are doing a great job of rocking!
I have been practicing Nichiren Buddhism for 50 years now and although I cannot speak for all of the other sects of Buddhism, we in the SGI are not always thinking about death. Death is just a name for the moment that we pass from an active state of life to a latent state of life. We do think in terms of living to the fullest each day since life is the most precious thing in the universe and we should create as much value as we can through our actions and compassion for other living beings. Love your musings Kris! Cheers! Tom
I think others who don’t know as much about Buddhism sometimes think we have a big thing about death. In my Kadampa group we were taught that we don’t know if this is our last day so live as if it could be and like you said, create as much value as we can.
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Dick Van Dyke, 91, was interviewed today on CBS This Morning. His theory on longevity is to just “keep moving”.
He has a book by that name! He sounds like he continues to be full of vitality even at his age.
Hola Kris, I don’t keep up with my age very well. I know that the last digit in my age is always one more than the last digit in the current year. I have a great life partner and I’ll enjoy life with her as long as I can. Both of us spent the last few days landscaping the back yard for spring; the temps were cool but the sun was brilliant and we love working together. Plus I have a new bottle of Tylenol so I’m good to go!
I have always liked this quote:
“If you live to be one hundred, you’ve got it made. Very few people die past that age. ”
― George Burns
My other favorite is:
“Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive”.
— Elbert Hubbard
I’ve heard that death rate continues to hover right on 100%.
And yes, none of us get out of here alive.
Glad to hear you are having fun together.
I’m 60 and I still surf a short board, cycle 40 miles, and swim a few miles a week. What’s a rocking chair? 😉
Good for You! Keep up the good work and you will be young for many more decades 🙂