On Getting Old
Okay. I am not really concerned about aging now…but at some point that part of my brain will hit me. It will hit all of us at some point in our lives. We suddenly become conscious of how little time we have, or have left. Our lives are limited by time, a paradox of some sort, I think. It is sometimes constraining us from doing everything that we want, but it’s always a reminder that we are only here for a short period of time.
Since today is a glorious day, my birthday, I thought I should reflect on how much far I have come, what I think about growing up, what I think about getting older and what to make of all this.
Seneca, the one stoic philosopher that I know who has written extensively on the matter of old age, was constantly during his lifetime thinking about old age. I remembered him today and read one of his letters he wrote, that talks much about old age. My favourite passage is the one below, where he uses circles as a metaphor.
“Our span of life is divided into parts; it consists of large circles enclosing smaller. One circle embraces and bounds the rest; it reaches from birth to the last day of existence. The next circle limits the period of our young manhood. The third confines all of childhood in its circumference. Again, there is, in a class by itself, the year; it contains within itself all the divisions of time by the multiplication of which we get the total of life. The month is bounded by a narrower ring. The smallest circle of all is the day; but even a day has its beginning and its ending, its sunrise and its sunset. 7. Hence Heraclitus, whose obscure style gave him his surname, remarked: “One day is equal to every day.” Different persons have interpreted the saying in different ways. Some hold that days are equal in number of hours, and this is true; for if by “day” we mean twenty-four hours’ time, all days must be equal, inasmuch as the night acquires what the day loses. But others maintain that one day is equal to all days through resemblance, because the very longest space of time possesses no element which cannot be found in a single day, – namely, light and darkness, – and even to eternity day makes these alternations more numerous, not different when it is shorter and different again when it is longer. 8. Hence, every day ought to be regulated as if it closed the series, as if it rounded out and completed our existence.”
I think of all the time I have come to spend, how many days, hours, seconds? – 6940 days, 166704 hours, 600134400 seconds and counting…
There is an important denominator in all of this calculation that we tend to forget, and that is how much of the time we spend is spent looking into the future or the past. We either live in the past or in the future, rarely is there someone who is living on the current monotone of his life. Whatever I do in my life has to do with the idea that it’s a long term goal, that I do because it will affect something in the future.
Over the years, growing up, I was excited to grow up, just like any other kid might be. It’s an idea imposed on every kid fueled by the notion of satisfaction of achieving something once they grow up. Back then, I couldn’t wait to grow up = get older, to see what happens next. Right now, often, I tend to reminisce on the days when I was younger. It brings this wave of nostalgia.
There is no choice to getting old, is there? You just get old, whether you like it or not.
This strange thought just hit me right now – growing up is different than getting old. People tell me all the time that I think like a wise middle aged grown up. Now that makes sense. This leaves the other part – getting old, which is a reminder of how time is flying and I should make the most of everything which is a good thing.