Some Thoughts about Aging

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
You know that you are getting older when you start thinking more about the past than you do about the future.This essay looks back on a life and attempts to understand what it was all about.

Submitted: October 04, 2013

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Submitted: October 04, 2013

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Some Thoughts about Aging

You know that you are getting older when you start thinking about the past more than you do about the future.  That’s because you realize that the most important decisions to be made during your lifetime have already been made. All that is left to do is to see their results. You know now that life is a winding road that starts in the green pastures of childhood, twists through the turbulent waters of education, transverses the challenges of employment, encounters the responsibilities of family, and finally, if you are fortunate, leads you to the fruited plains of retirement and contemplation.

You look back in wonder! Did I really do that? What was I thinking?  Was I smarter than I realized or dumber than I thought? Probably both. You took chances that astonish you now, realizing in hindsight how disastrous the results could have been. You breathe a sigh of relief that things worked out. Then you remember the things that went wrong, the opportunities missed, the money lost, the ill will created.

Life has a way of evening things out. You’re up then you’re down, over and over again. A roller coaster ride. You have to enjoy the good times while you can, because they don’t last forever. You can survive the bad times because they are just temporary.  Like a ship at sea, you sail on through the storm because you know that there is an end to it. You have a destination you want to get to, but you need something to keep you on course.

A family can do that for you. Responsibility focuses your mind, limits your options, makes you realize what is important and what is not. It is the double edged sword that cuts both ways. You give up your freedom of action for the security of the future. It is the main turning point in the road, the place where “I” becomes “we”.

Up until that point your actions concerned only you.  You reaped the rewards or suffered the consequences.  Then you had a wife who shared these outcomes with you, followed by children who depended upon you. Everything changed so suddenly, and you had to learn how to quickly adapt to their needs.

But the family brought security and organization to your life, something that had previously been missing. Now planning for the future became a necessity, not an option. “living for today” is a single person’s  prerogative.  A family man has to look at least twenty one years into the future to plan for his children’s education.

The obvious questions come to mind. “What is life all about, anyway?”  ”Was it worth it?” “What happens after you die?”  These are questions without specific answers. They can only be answered with opinions formed by your experiences.

You come to believe that life is about the journey. We travel to other destinations to experience different sensations.  These could be anything from different foods to entirely different cultures. Our nature requires us to continuously expand our knowledge. The more we do this the more meaningful our life becomes.

How do you measure the “worth” of a life?  Possibly by what it has experienced.  The scale might range from an individual living is some jungle tribe the same way his ancestors did three thousand years ago to a person  who is  “educated” and well- traveled.  By educated I do not necessarily mean formally educated by some institution or another.  A person that never graduated from high school could become educated by reading a large variety of books and through his own life experiences. It is his ability to assimilate what he has learned that makes him educated. The greater his ability to do this the more valuable his life becomes to him. The more it was “worth it.”

The greatest speculation in all of humanity is, “what happens after you die?”  Philosophers and priests have sought to answer that question for thousands of years. I don’t try to improve upon their conclusions. My beliefs are based upon my own personal experiences.

Life and death are as much a part of existence as the universe.  Stars are born from gas and eventually die in enormous explosions. All of the elements that exist came from the death of stars that exploded and sent their elements out into the void. These elements then combined to form the planets, water, and eventually life. It seems logical that all living things should follow the same pattern as their “parents”, the stars. Matter can be neither created nor destroyed in our universe. Everything is recycled!  This is true of the elements that our bodies are composed of. Their atoms will continue to exist forever.  What is at question is what happens to the mind.  What happens to our consciousness? Is it somehow recycled too? Are all of those thought and experiences lost forever, or are they somehow reused . This is where speculation enters into the discussion. 

I think that could possibly be the case. All living creatures are born with what we call instinct. When we are born our brain is similar to a new computer. It has the potential to “think” but not the ability to do so.  When the windows program was installed in my computer it had the ability to ‘think”, but nothing to think about. I supplied that when I started using various programs on it. I think that instinct might be the equivalent of the windows program that life is born with.  It provides us with the ability to think and the minimum amount of information we need to survive until our brains receive more information.

 For two thirds of humanities’ history our brain size was about the same as that of today’s apes. Then our brains stared to grow rapidly as we started using language and cognitive functions. In about seven million years the human brain has tripled in size.  Was this tremendous growth necessary to accommodate rapidly increasing amounts of instinct? If so, where did this instinct come from?  I think it might be consciousness that has been recycled.  If matter cannot be crated nor destroyed, might not the same thing be true of consciousness?  Could some of it be transmitted, much like a program being transmitted on WIFI, from a dying brain to a newborn one?  Is that what has enabled us to progress as we have?

These are the thoughts of a person entering the final decades of his life. They are a mixture of happiness and regret, hope and worry, optimism and rationalism, the ingredients of life.

Note: I have just written anothr essay "Some Thoughts about being 80 Years Old" and posted it to this website (02/23/2016).

 


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