Saturday, 4 June 2011

On aging and human dignity

This has been in the back of my mind for about a year now, but recently came to the forefront as I have heard several people express disbelief at their advanced age.

So bear with me.

It has occurred to me that the soul of man is ageless. I used to wonder (when I was about 4) how old I'd be in heaven. If I died as a child, would I always be a child, or would I miraculously skip to a grown up? Are people really at their "prime" at age 25?

But since I've been getting older (ripe old 33!) I've begun to realize that I'm the same person that I was when I was 4. That sounds rather simplistic, I guess; of course I'm still me. My way of doing things has changed; I've learned a lot, had new experiences, and come to different conclusions than I used to. However, my way of feeling and thinking about things is still the same. The part of me that is essentially ME remains.

There are two personal applications to this revelation.

#1 is that my children will always be the same person as they are now. The things I say to them and do with them will affect them for eternity. This is a serious matter to consider. It is humbling and cautious-making.

#2 is that old people were once young. Another "duh," I know, but think about it. Think about how you see the elderly treated. How those under 70 talk to those over 80. Old people have the same ME-ness to them that I do now, and did when I was a toddler. Their bodies betray them at every turn, and sometimes even talking is difficult, but they still think and feel inside like a human being, not an elder.

I think this is what "Right to Life" is all about, if you'll follow me. Even, to a large extent, the pacifist position. Humans are made in the image of God, and have an innate worth. It doesn't matter if a person is not yet born, an illogical two-year-old, 30, or 96; they have a soul that deserves respect. The body changes and dies, but the soul remains.

So take the time to listen to those in a different stage of life from yourself. Children are just as earnest as grownups, and shouldn't be blown off because they are short. A stroke victim knows what she's thinking and is just as frustrated as you are at her inability to express it.

You get the idea, and I'm soapboxing now (hey, I invented a word!), so I'll quit. Thanks for listening.


Ganeida said...

Yes, 100%! The body's a crock, but my me is marching on regardless. lol

Wil said...

"I'm the same person that I was when I was 4"

I think this is more applicable to you than to many people. I've noticed that your core personality hasn't changed much at all since you were a child -- and I've always respected you for this. For some reason, you seemed as mature then as you do now (compliment!)

Others I have seen (myself included) never seemed to have that immutable core, and change regularly based on other influences.

"old people were once young"

As I near 40, I'm realizing this more often. :-)

I've always loved talking to older people, especially when they're telling stories about their childhood or young adult years.

I remember Grandpa Crews telling me about his childhood in SE Oklahoma, where he would climb a tree until it bent far enough so he could jump to the next tree.

We can only hope that someone will be interested in *our* stories when we're more advanced in age. ("I remember, back in the 1900s, when TV only had four channels..." and so on.)

Anonymous said...

Insightful and thought-provoking. mums

Norma Gillespie said...

I agree with your comments on aging. I was just discussing with a friend on how, when I say I'm 64, I feel like a little girl playing dress up in adult clothing. My hair shouldn't be gray, i shouldn't have wrinkles, and my skin shouldn't be getting thinner. My mind feels foreign in this aging body, not wanting to see evidence that I won't be here forever. I still have so many things to do like publish my 100+ poems w/illustrations, write more human-interest newspaper articles, etc. etc. I want to get to know more people and make a difference in more lives. Times seems to go by faster but actually our energies slow down and we just can't seem to get things done before we realize the day is gone...

MamaOlive said...

Thank you all for the kind comments. I'm glad you "get it." :-)