Well – you may wonder and so do I!! Time passes by – sometimes we notce and sometimes we don’t. This space has given me valuable time to read and listen …. and that leads for me into writing. I have started some reflections on age for the more general reader and I thoughT that I would share the introduction with you.
Any suggestion sfor the contents page would be much appreciated!!
We are all getting older. We all relate to that truth in different ways. Some may embrace it while most of us live within deep denial of it. This book is my attempt to engage with age and our ageing. It will ask what may make for ageing well or to use the popular term what we may need to be and do to age successfully.
This is not a religious book but some of my perceptions are shaped by my own experience as a priest and theologian. I attempt to move outside some of these comfort zones and write a short book designed to stimulate, support and change how we view the biography of our life.
I live in the south west part of the West Midlands. It is an affluent community that is full of high achievers. Our lives are self consciously busy crammed as they are with the demands placed on us by work and family. Some of this activity is chosen but quite a lot of it is deeply woven into the way modern life is. It has the power to satisfy and frustrate. In this culture age and ageing have been marginalized. This book will explore why this has happened and argue that we neglect ageing at our peril.
Let me take you back to the local town where I shop or more often than not drive through on my way to somewhere else. In our world today even if you are going nowhere you go there quickly! I am late for a meeting in Birmingham and I can’t find my mobile phone to let my colleagues know that I am behind. I negotiate a busy junction and then meet a pedestrian crossing. There are three cars in front. My eyes catch the sight of an old man waiting to cross. He hesitates and then moves back while none of the cars ahead let him pass. I decide to let him cross even when my anxiety levels about the meeting continue to rise. I stop. He hesitates. Then slowly and laboriously he takes several steps from the curb. He is frail and the journey across the road seems to take forever.
The man it seemed is so alone and so vulnerable. I saw his weakness and his pain. He had probably crossed that road for many years but suddenly that path had become treacherous and strange. How many minutes did I wait as he slowly placed one foot in front of another? How much longer would he be able to do this? Was he at the end of his life? Where was the man going? Who was he becoming? Was anyone helping him on his way?
As I drove off something very profound and disturbing struck me. He was me! The thought preoccupied me for the rest of my journey.
The day would come when I, threatened by a jungle of cars, would hesitate, and wonder how the familiar had become so foreign, how and why my body had become so heavy and difficult, and how my reactions had become so tranquilized. The old man had become a stark foreshadowing of what I would become. His vulnerability would become mine with all its dependence and imperfections. His appearance challenged the mask of my illusions. His ageing reflected my own ageing.
I both sympathized with that old man and hated him. His presence spoke about my passage through time, my own physical changes, and my own inevitable death. I did not want to receive this message but it was written very clearly on the page of my busy day. It made me sad and gave me hope. He exhibited patience that reminded me that we all have to slow down. This discardable, throw away person is the product of our culture, a bundle of experience, wisdom, knowledge, life, concerns and wisdom. Who is he? I do not see him in my car wing mirror – he disappears strangely into the landscape.
This man’s story is important. Your story is important. They belong together. These are the tales of unique human existence, fabric that took years to weave. We are all worth something.
The question for the reader is this: Who are you? What is your life worth? Will the fabric of your years be worth a glance from others or will it be merely discardable? As you grow older what meaning, purpose or value will life have? How might we age well?
My hope is that this book can open up some of these questions to help the reader explore what age and ageing well might mean for them. I plan to do this through short chapters of no more than about one thousand words – digestible pieces with some pointers for further reflection to enable the reader to become an active participant in the process.
Now – I shall need another sabbatical to write the remaining chapters!!