We often hear old people saying, once this-some task-is done, I am free to die, or sometimes if everything is done they are happy to die. At such times there is always at least one person who says, why do you say such things? You are going to live long, don’t fuss. This particular person, or many a times this big group of people is many times present in everyone’s family. They are always cheerful about life and fearful about death though it’s someone else’s. They always poke those who talk about death, or dying people. They are those who don’t like to hear ‘he/she died‘, they jab and ask us to say ‘he/she passed away‘. They criticize bitching about someone who is dead, and teach us to ‘have some respect for the dead’ (even if the dead one had scammed the property worth millions, or betrayed his wife!) Basically, they are just not death-friendly (!).
But almost everyone does that, right? Many people try to postpone a medical test or skip it; they don’t want to know much, they like to stay in sweetened myth of a healthy life. It’s another thing that this attitude, many times leads them to a more advanced stage of their illness, may it be diabetes, heart disease or cancer, number of patients of which, are evolving in our country. There are many, who hide or don’t keep track of their ages. They’d dye their hair, use anti-aging products for skin, hide wrinkles and thus, their insecurities are utilized efficiently by various beauty product brands. Then there is a special category of those who call themselves ‘young at heart’, and try to sound cool to the younger generation by sometimes participating adventurous activities and come up with the one-liners such as ‘Age is just a number’ or ‘Age is a case of mind over matter’ etc. They are so overenthusiastic about everything that it makes us wonder, what exactly in goodness are they so excited about?
All this reminds me a distant relative’s 99th birthday party. The sons of the person had arranged that extravagant celebration, for this achievement (of reaching 99, which is rare these days!). My 6 year old nephew was stunned by the idea of elders celebrating extravagant birthday, he used to think that it was only for the younger ones. After a deep analysis, maybe he got an interesting conclusion. He said, ‘Okay, now I get it. It’s his 99th birthday, so when he’ll be 100 it’s finished! Right?’ One tight slap was the only response that he got. It’s funny how numbers play with our minds, the shopkeepers and brands play with us all the time by writing price as 499 or 999 instead of 500 and 1000. We say it’s a psychological tendency to feel that we saved so much more by buying the product worth 999 than by that worth 1000, though it’s just a rupee. Same was the case with this kid, who thought 100 is a complete number. He was a very thoughtful kid with vivid imagination, but all his skills got constricted by this incident; just because he predicted the person’s death, indirectly (surprisingly, the birthday-boy died before reaching 100! But let’s get serious..)
There are so many theories regarding death, afterlife. The entire ‘religious market’ is based on such theories only. Theory would be a very bad terminology, but the people following them take them very seriously. Every religion (except a few) tells only one thing, follow our terms and you’ll be placed in a world of infinite happiness after death. If you don’t, then the world of infinite suffering is ready for you. The entire life is then spent in worrying about the life after death, but that’s a different story. If, such a thing really exists and a majority of population follows it, then why is there such a hush-hush about death? Why fear death? And why ignore its nearing? Why ignore the aging? Or even if those worlds of happiness and suffering after death don’t exist, what is the point of this ignorance?
I wonder if it is because people have a tendency-not sure if it is natural-to shed big responsibilities. People always seem to struggle for power and authority, but it’s an illusion. They may like to rule a company, or a political party, or even just a small scale organization; they may like to have called upon stage to get awards or felicitation or even just a bouquet. But they don’t really like to accept the maturity that comes with age. When you convince yourself to be young at heart, when you cover your age, you deny the wisdom and knowledge of life that comes with it. In Tuesdays with Morrie, Prof. Morrie says,
”As you grow, you learn more. If you stayed at twenty-two, you’d always be as ignorant as you were at twenty-two. Aging is not just decay, you know. It’s growth. It’s more than the negative that you’re going to die, it’s also the positive that you understand you’re going to die, and that you live a better life because of it.”
All this philosophy sounds nice. But we always observe people saying I wish I were young again. For that, they create an illusion of this wish fulfilled. ‘Fulfilling’ this wish, varies from person to person, some like to ‘look’ young, some like to ‘feel’ young, some behave like youngsters, some take part in the mischiefs and spoil their grandkids-despite the defiance by kid’s parents-in order to be considered as a member of the kids’ gang. We never hear once, ‘I wish I was seventy.’ If aging is so valuable, why don’t we embrace it?
Because this ignorance reflects unsatisfied lives, unfulfilled lives. Lives that haven’t found meaning. Because if you’ve found meaning in your life, you don’t want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to see more, do more. You can’t wait until sixty-five. So all younger people should know this-if you always battle against getting older, you always suffer, because it will happen anyway. And the truest fact of life is that eventually, you ARE going to die. The only thing you can make sure is that the death doesn’t start early and stay for long time before actually dying. Morrie answers to the query if he is envious of the young,
”Oh, I guess I do. I envy them being able to go to the health club, or go for a swim. Or dance. Mostly for dancing. But envy comes to me, I feel it, and then I let it go. Let it go. Tell yourself, That’s envy, I’m going to separate from it now, And walk away. Of course, it is impossible for the old not to envy the young. But the issue is to accept who you are and revel in that. This is your time to be in your thirties. I had my time to be in my thirties, and now is my time to be seventy-eight. You have to find what’s good and true and beautiful in your life as it is now. Looking back makes you competitive. And, age is not a competitive issue.”
The truth about the old ones is, part of them is every age. They are three-year-old, they are five-year-old, they are thirty-seven-year-old, they are fifty-year-old. They’ve been through all of them, and they know what it’s like. We should delight in being a child when it’s appropriate to be a child. We should delight in being a wise old man when it’s required to be a wise old man. Think of all we can be! We are every age, up to our own. So how can we be envious of where the young are, when we have already been there!