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Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Fountain of Age

As you grow older, which do you want to hold on to most: (a) Youthful body? (b) Youthful mind? (c) Youthful heart? What do you imagine you'll be like at age 100? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 942).

What age is a youthful age – 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30? And when considering whether or not to desire “going back,” I also must consider what I would have to give up by going back. I would love to have the spontaneity that I had as a five-year-old; I would love to have the sense of exhilaration and growth when a 15-year-old; I sometimes yearn for the sense of invincibility I had a 25, and the sense of raw commitment I had a 30. But what I have now is a profound sense of assurance and peace. These I did not have before and I frankly would not want to give them up to acquire youthfulness.

Of course, I would love to have the ease of movement of the 25-year-old. The joints simply don't have the elasticity at age 68 that they had at 25. I would love to be able to climb five flights of stairs and think nothing of it, and to eat pizza every night and not wake with indigestion or gain weight.

The thing I fear most about old age I guess is the progression I have sometimes seen evident into a realm of what can only be called judgmental meanness and ideological ossification—a journey into an early kind of mental death evidenced by a severe lack benevolence and generosity. At its worst manifestation one is reduced to a belligerent old man railing at everything that passes by. I can only pray to God that I would die gracefully before such a fate should be realized. Not, I hasten to add, that this affliction cannot occur at most any age.

At 100 (if I should live so long), I will of course be diminished in many ways. For example, I will have long since lost the skill to drive a car. Yet I yearn for a continued measure of good health and, I can only say, youthful mind. I think the test can be summed up in this question: Will I yet have a sense of humor? Will I be able to laugh at myself and with others? If I can, then life will be good no matter what.

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