While in a store recently, I noticed an elderly gentleman working with his smartphone. I felt empathy for him, knowing that his advanced age likely kept him from understanding how to do whatever it was that he was attempting. Technology can be challenging for the older generation; at least, that’s what I’ve read. However, as I moved nearer to him, I was struck with a startling discovery: he was no older than I. In fact, he may well have been younger.
This was not the first time I’ve had this awakening, this discovery that I am not as young as I thought I was. This happens because when I view the world, the one thing I never see is myself. Oh, of course, I see myself in a mirror, but a mirror never shows interaction with others; it just shows me. Yet, what defines all of us is that time we are with others and sharing the experience of life. Even the act of looking into a mirror corrupts what we see because our viewing is generally to assess appearance: attire, neatness, cleanliness, and the like. What we do not see in the mirror is our age, our age as it compares to others.
This disparity in how we view ourselves, compared to how others see us, relates to the fact that our body ages while our brain does not. As a young man, these two views were sufficiently alike to be ignored, but with advancing age the differences become striking. As I view myself, I am still roughly somewhere between 25 and 35 years old, with some changes in my philosophy, political views, and overall focus. And I’m much smarter today by far than I was during those early years.
The benefit I see is an ageless life to be. Twenty-five is a wonderful age and I’ve enjoyed that position for the past fifty-five years and will continue to do so until my end. We do not grow old, not I nor you. Our bodies age and we do ourselves a disservice by equating the state of our body with the state of our mind. Yet, even in writing this, I know that I still view older citizens as being much older than my twenty-five-year-old virtual self. It is only when I speak to an older citizen that I discover the twenty-five-year-old who resides within. A discovery of pearls.
I see my life as Oliver Wendell Holmes’ lovely poem, The One-Hoss Shay, the story of a shay that lasted 100 years and collapsed all at once. And that will be my end: At some point, my body will finally break and, at that moment, my twenty-five-year-old brain will suddenly cease. I will not break down, I will not age, I will not grow old. I will cease.