On Aging Youthfully

An aged man is but a paltry thing,

A tattered coat upon a stick,unless

Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing

For every tatter in its mortal dress–W. B. Yeats

We have no choice about our bodies growing older. Author David Richo writes, “our bodies resolutely declare the noble truth of impermanence”. But there is a sense in which we do have a choice about the age of our souls.

The Welsh poet David Whyte points out that there is nothing more existentially disheartening to a young person than to meet a bitter old man or woman, a person who’s inner life has atrophied with their outer abilities, who has “lost connection with the wellsprings of a fiery kind of existence”. I would add the converse: that perhaps there is nothing more existentially heartening to a young person than to meet an old man or woman who, while their bodies may be racked with the inexorable dilapidation of time, their inner world is full of life, fire, hope, playfulness, and peaceful wisdom.

This topic also reminds me of G. K. Chesterton’s thought about the eternal youthfulness of God. He muses that because God never ages, He is paradoxically the Ancient of Days and at the same time eternally younger than us, and that perhaps the reason the sun comes up every morning (though we reduce it to an observation of the laws of nature) is that, toddler like, God and the whole heavenly host exclaim together “do it again!” every morning.

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