Thursday, September 12, 2019
Looking for the Blessings of Old Age
"If only I was a little younger... ." A religious sister who is in charge of a center for spirituality begins her column in the Peace Weekly with this reflection.
Tomorrow Korea celebrates Chuseok, the Autumn New Moon Festival one of the biggest holidays in South Korea. The family clans will gather, give thanks, remember the deceased, pray, chat and enjoy each other's company with a memorable meal that ties it all together. Many will remember the past and bring up their sadness and joys. The recent Typhon and great damage will be very much in the talk among families as will the the topic of death.
Sister remembers chatting with a friend and uttering the statement wishing she were younger without much thought. Her friend who was listening quietly said loudly: "Right, I would be able to do much more if I were 10 years younger." And they both burst out laughing.
They both knew they were talking nonsense, saying things without meaning. With a tickling sensation in her throat: “Maybe we will be saying the same thing in ten years." Her friend's face suddenly expressed great sadness.
"The days, weeks and months change so quickly. It's too fast. Life is short? My mind is impatient. All goes around and continues to go around. One thinks they will be around forever but the time is limited and this brings sadness."
"What makes aging uncomfortable and sad? I imagined a lot of things would get better as I got older, but that is not what happens. I thought I'd be freer and more generous as I got older, but it is so different from what I hoped for? I thought I would get over worrying about the small things but that is not the case. I don't know why I am faced with so many uncomfortable thoughts."
Yes. As we grow older, many of us think that we will grow into nicer adults, know more, become wiser, more accepting and leave much behind. But is that what happens? As you get older, pretending seems to increase. Pretending to be okay, but it's not really. Even though they say "understand" to their juniors, they are pretentious... "I don't care about that," but they do care. We pretend and play it cool that age means little but that is also a lie. Getting old is scary.
One day the sister saw an older and a few years younger man, arguing. The older man said quietly: "That is not the way you speak to an elder." Then the younger of the two shouted loudly: "If you are an adult, you should act like an adult." The older person muttering to himself and pain showing on his face quickly disappeared. She concluded that both wanted to be recognized and accepted. This is the desire of the elderly and the reason in most cases for feeling uncomfortable and sad.
She reminds the elderly not to struggle to have others show respect for old age. Rather than spending time looking to see if the eyes of others are directed towards you, it would be better to spend time looking into your own heart. As you grow older, even if there is nothing that stands out it's a good idea to look at yourself. Looking into the good and not so good, but accepting yourself. Taking things as they come with a peaceful heart is this not a great blessing? We can give thanks for accepting dissonance and limitations. Would it not be wonderful if we could thrill with excitement for the beautiful days ahead?