Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Rendezvous with Old Age

“Senescence”, they call it! That’s quite a heavy word for something that gently tiptoes into your life. Old age is technically known as senescence - a gradual deterioration of bodily functions. It starts very innocuously, like a gentle trickle of raindrops on your window pane, their sound barely discernible. A wee bit of pain in the back, a little creaking of the knee joint. Disappearing as mysteriously as they had appeared, just like the raindrops that gently tapped on the glass, and then evaporated into the ether.

Rain can bring respite from the scorching heat or it can ruin a bright and sunny picnic day. Likewise, old age can bring relief from the raging desires of youth or become a roadblock to the fulfilment of those very desires. It is actually a unique, personal experience for each individual. For me, the raindrops of old age seem to be the harbinger of the spring of contentment. If youth is the spring of desire, red, deep and passionate, then old age is the spring of contentment, mellow and calm.

Malcolm Muggeridge in his book “A twentieth century testimony” makes a very interesting observation. He writes ….

"When I look back on my life nowadays, which I sometimes do, what strikes me most forcibly about it is that what seemed at the time most significant and seductive, seems now futile and absurd. For instance, success in all of its various guises; being known and being praised, ostensible pleasures, like acquiring money or seducing women, or traveling, going to and fro in the world and up and down in it like Satan, exploring and experiencing whatever Vanity Fair has to offer. In retrospect all these exercises in self-gratification seem pure fantasy, what Pascal called "licking the earth."

Rare and blessed are those enlightened beings who aim for salvation from their very first breath on this earth. For most of us lesser mortals, the definition of success changes and evolves as we pass through different stages of life. Fame, money, status, being desired by the opposite sex, power etc., may imply success during youth. Whereas old age may evoke different desires like wanting to leave a legacy, compassion, giving back to society, and these may become the new yardsticks for measuring one’s success in the later years of life.

Youth has its own energy, its vibrancy as well as its foolishness, which are to be enjoyed and lived fully. Old age brings greater method to the madness, and a deeper sense of humour that looks back at one’s own foolishness in youth and lets out a loud guffaw.

My greatest delight as I edge closer to completing forty years of life is the “lightness of being” that is slowly, but surely washing over me. Bathing me in its warm, golden radiance, lifting me higher and closer to an abundant way of thinking. The petty quarrels, jealousies, anger, insecurities seem to be losing their grip on me. Ten years ago, they would cause me many a sleepless night and outbursts of rage or tears. Now, they don’t appear to be as powerful. I am able to forgive and let go much faster than I would have when I was younger. Fear, the most basic human emotion, also seems to be giving way to faith. In fact, fear begins to exit, when faith begins to enter. Paradoxically, as my body starts to become weaker, my soul seems to become stronger.

In time, the raindrops on the window pane will become louder. The small aches and pains will give way to the greater difficulties of old age. And, one day it will start pouring cats and dogs. The window pane, no longer able to withstand the force of the rain will shatter. I hope, along with it will shatter the veil of Maya and the iron gridlocks of greed, anger, ego, desire and attachment that hold me prisoner.

If I am blessed enough, then I will slowly rise higher, and higher still, on the wings of consciousness…….. towards eternal freedom. Maybe, I will become Wordsworth's cloud - "The cloud that floats on high over vales and hills" or I might become his golden daffodils....

A host of golden daffodils
Beside the lake, beneath the trees, 
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. ....... 

Many a sad heart with glee I shall fill....
as they daintily dance with the daffodils......

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