We often hear old people saying, ‘once this (some task) is done, I am free to die’, or sometimes when everything is done they are content to die. At times like these, 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 person or many times a big group of people present in everyone’s family are always cheerful about life and fearful about death; even if it’s someone else’s. They always poke those who talk about death or are dying. They are the ones who don’t like to hear about someone’s death; they like to jab and ask us only to hear us say ‘he/she has passed away’. They like bitching about someone who is dead but teach us to ‘have some respect for the dead’ at the same time; 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 about their health issues, they like to stay in a 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 their age. They’d dye their hair, use anti-ageing products for skin, hide wrinkles and thus, their insecurities are utilised efficiently by various beauty product brands. Then there is a particular category of those who call themselves ‘young at heart’, and try to sound cool to the younger generation by sometimes participating in adventurous activities and come up with one-liners like ‘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 are they so excited about?
All this reminds me of a distant relative’s 99th birthday party. The person’s sons had arranged for an extravagant celebration, to celebrate his achievement of reaching the age of 99, which is rare these days! My six-year-old nephew was stunned by the idea of elders having an extravagant birthday party; he used to think that it was only for the young people. After an in-depth analysis, maybe he got an exciting conclusion. He said, “Okay, now I get it. It’s his 99th birthday, so when he turns 100 it’s finished! Right?”
It’s funny how numbers play with our mind, the shopkeepers and brands trick 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 a vivid imagination, but all his skills got constricted by this incident; just because he kind of predicted the person’s death (surprisingly, the birthday-boy/grandpa died before reaching 100! But let’s get serious.
There are many theories regarding death and the afterlife. The entire ‘religious market’ is based on such theories. A theory would be very bad terminology, but the people following them take it very seriously. Every religion (except a few) tells only one thing, follow our principles and you’ll be placed in a world of infinite happiness after death. If you don’t, then a world of infinite suffering is ready for you. Our entire life is then spent in worrying about the ‘life after death’, but that’s a different story.
If such a thing exists and a majority of the population follows it, then why is there is no talk about death? Why do we fear death? And why ignore its approaching? Why overlook the ageing? 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 tend to shed significant responsibilities. People always seem to struggle for power and authority, but it’s an illusion. People may like to lead a company, or a political party, or even just a small scale organisation, they may like being called up on stage to receive 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 hide your age, then 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 just 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 to be considered a member of the kids’ gang. We never hear once, “I wish I were seventy.”
If ageing 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 would not want to go back, you will only want to go forward, see more and do more. But, you can’t wait until sixty-five. So, all younger people should know this if you battle against getting older, you will always suffer, because it will happen anyway. And the most important 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 a long time you die. 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, they have a part of them in every age- they are three-year-old, five-year-old, thirty-seven-year-old, fifty-year-old at the same time. They’ve been through all of these phases in life, and they know what it’s like to be younger. 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 of us to be a wise old man. Just 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!