What is it like to grow old? You know, it may seem funny, but I don’t know. I am in my seventies, but I don’t think of myself as an old man. I look in the mirror and I see the grey hair and beard, the old man’s tits, the wrinkles on my face and spots on my hands. I know I get out of breath when I exert myself, I don’t have endurance and my balance isn’t so great; but, I don’t think of myself as old. In my mind I feel exactly like I did when I was thirty-five. I am still sexual, I like new adventures, I like an element of danger – the adrenalin rush - I still feel like an alpha male; I’m a thirty-five year old with age disabilities.
The main difference is - I am aware I don’t have a future. I can’t plan ahead… I can’t say, “In a few years I will travel someplace, or I’ll get another degree, a new occupation field, or perhaps in five or ten years I will …” I don’t even buy new tools for my tool box – because you buy tools for the long haul. This is it. This is what I have. Today is the rest of my life. Age is a reality I have to learn to live with.
I know I am smarter than I use to be. I no longer do stupid things to impress young women. I tend to view the world more holistically and less egotistically. I am better educated and have more life experiences and mistakes to reflect on.
I also find I am plagued with sometime annoying, short term memory retention. When I’m cooking I will walk to the refrigerator and think, “What the hell did I come over here for.” I occasionally can’t remember if I took my blood pressure pill in the morning and will have to check the pill box. But, this doesn’t bother me. I look at the brain as a hard drive with finite memory capacity. I have been downloading information to my hard drive for seventy years and I have reached a saturation point; so, if I add something new, something else is automatically deleted. Think of the things in my hard drive: early childhood memories, twelve years of school, twenty-two years in the military, six years of college, travel, three occupations; the list can go on and on and on – experiences – memories – adventures – things I’ve done and people I have known. My hard drive is full.
So here I am, with the realization that I am near the end; and I have to ask myself: is the Hokey-Pokey really what it is all about?
The dog dies, the cat dies, the rabbit dies, the horse dies, the frog dies, the fish dies, the fly dies, you die, the cockroach dies, the tree dies, the rose bush dies, the pope dies, the microbe dies, the chicken dies, the hamster dies, eventually the sun dies and life on earth is dead – and that’s all. Get over it.
You put your right foot out
You put your right foot in
You put your right foot out
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey-Pokey
And you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about
We face the woeful prospect that we are intelligent creatures living in a meaningless world. Steve Hagen: Buddhism Plain and Simple.