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Happy Dussehra and Diwali to all Readers.          November 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:June' 2019


Let’s accept the reality of ageing

Rajesh Bhola

Ihink it takes having lived a full life to finally figure what really does matter. When we are children, what really matters is growing up, being an adult; we want to be older. When we are in high school, we want to get into a good college, and then get a good job. Then there is career, family, children of our own and our aspirations for them. The answer to the question "what really matters" keeps changing. But in this whole process we, very quickly, reach our old age, close to the final pack up.
One of my close friends working in Air Force shared with me his view on graying of hair. He started getting white in his beard long ago. I think maybe in his late 30s. The first gray hairs showed up in it so it is something he has lived with and watched for a long time. He tried for some hair color for a couple of months. He grew scornful of coloring and the whole exercise of repeating it again and again and also with the odor of nasty oxidation dyes. He left coloring.

Now he was psychologically adjusted to the thought of supporting glossy grey hair. In an evening party, he expressed in a lighter vein but very meaningfully, that: “But I rather like the way it is now. It's a white beard, I think it gives me more authority, and I think a lot of people look at me as a Santa Claus figure. That's fine with me. Aging can increase value by concentrating what is most worthy and by allowing what's inconsequential to dissipate. It can smooth out roughness; add depth of character, so I just find it a useful exercise to think what aging brings out in these other areas of our experience that makes us willing to pay more money for old versions as we do for old matured Scotch whisky which is brewed in casks for decades; the older the better”

Life is to be lived like it is. Life includes youth and ageing, meeting and parting, birth and death. A life that we can be happy to live in is not one in which we are constantly trying to have one half of each of these pairings without having the other half. It is a package. You cannot have one without the other. The two go together. Youth implies ageing. The glow in teenage implies wrinkles in later age. Most beautiful men and women also grow infirm and old; they also age. But our ad and film world constantly conditions our mind by images of beauty, health and everlasting youth. It does not glorify sickness, infirmities and ageing which also remains to be part of human life.

The ad and media world makes us feel ashamed of our infirmities. We start hiding our grey hair with colors. We start rushing frequently to beauty and well being saloons and try to cover up and stop the process of looking old. But can we really stop the process of ageing? Is it not a spiritual procedure bound to happen? I think in our society we see so much denial of aging and ways that people try to pretend to themselves that aging is not happening and I worry about that being a not healthy direction. I was greatly impressed with my friend, mentioned in the above story, when he confided in me that the money he and his wife were spending on their physical cover up every month (few thousands every month) is being donated now to an orphanage in Dehradun.

As we age and experience changing physical and mental abilities; changes that require our adaptation and adjustment and possibly the assistance of others; our innate desire is still for autonomy. And our loss of autonomy may produce feelings of frustration, anger and bitterness. From earliest life, we struggle to assert our independence to "do it ourselves" and that desire and drive for selfsufficiency never ends. If we live long enough, we may very well outlive our life companion. Not only must we cope with the emotional tumult of deep grief and adjust to navigating the world alone, without someone who may have been by our side for most of our adult life, but the loss of our partner may send ripples out in all directions. For instance, without the support of our spouse, we may no longer be able to live independently. We may need help with activities of daily living. We may need assistance with transportation. Or we may even be forced into a new and unfamiliar living arrangement.

No matter how old we get to be, no matter what the circumstances of our aging and dying, I believe that within our relationships with other people and through our unique experience of being alive, flashes of insight, moments of transformation, glimpses of spiritual enlightenment are always available. I encourage people to stay open to the fullness of experience, whether sorrowful or joyful, and the wisdom that will yet come to them, for through those deeply felt experiences, their life will be changed and made richer.

It is not just the physical form which should match a standard of perfection. It is an inner self which needs to be perfected. We are all to remain encouraged to live our lives in such a way that we are always prepared to meet the unpleasant aspects of our lives happily. It is noble and sublime to face the inevitable and accept the reality of ageing; upholding dignity of self, learning patience and bestowing love and compassion on others.