I saw an older woman at the mall the other day who must have been around 80. Wearing an exceptionally short mini-dress (no more than a wide belt!), a tube halter-top, teased hair doubling the size of her head and makeup putting Tammy Faye Baker to shame she tottered around on very high platform shoes! I had 4 simultaneous thoughts: 1) Why is she dressed that way? 2) Does she really think we want to see this? 3) What’s wrong with her? and 4) Is she trying to prove 80 is the new 16? It was clear she was clinging to a younger version of herself… a MUCH younger version! So why do some people seem to fear aging when the natural course of Life is to change from one stage to another? A seed’s purpose is to germinate, grow, to flower and bear fruit. So too at conception each of us was just a one-celled being which divided again and again resulting in the birth of baby US! Even after birth the direction of physical life is for us to grow, which means to change. The trajectory of our inner life whether intellectually, emotionally, psychologically or spiritually follows the same route from simplicity to ever-developing complexity!
I often wonder about the harm we do to ourselves investing our energy and money in trying to still be who we once were! What I so love about Hawaiian culture is its understanding we are not meant to fight against Life but to cooperate, embrace and allow it to change us! In Hawaiian culture aging is seen as the physical expression of gaining Life’s wisdom. One sees this as respectfulness extended to the kupuna (those older than oneself). In fact young people in Hawaii refer to anyone who is not their peer as Aunty or Uncle… an honorific offered as respect. This Hawaiian concept of cooperation being proper to our state in Life is also seen in how Hawaiians understand our relationship with the land. We can take from it what we need but no more than that! In fact the custom is when one needs to take something from the forests or land one first asks its permission and makes some kind of offering to show no disrespect. How different this is from today’s general cultural sense we have a right to anything we want!
As I watched the old lady tottering away I couldn’t help but have the uncharitable thought come to me that she looked like an ancient hooker! That thought made me feel shame for myself and a tremendous sadness for her. As a result of that day in the mall when I pray each day I pray for her that she might find the happiness she so clearly yearns for and that she might eventually come to a peaceful acceptance of where she is in her life’s journey. What about you? Are you fighting Life’s demand that you let go of who you once were?