The Gifts of Aging
Updated: Jan 24, 2020
By Roger Desmarais:
The "Gifts" of Aging for the elderly can be defined as an “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual love.” Apart from any religious connotation of those words, the spirituality of that truth touches our lives daily in a communion of saints—of our friends.
There are various kinds of "Gifts." The elderly have gifts that transcend the minimal scope of traditional religious concepts. As sight begins to dim and hearing fades, other special "senses" begin to enhance. There are gifts in our lives that are our legacy from the evolution of the human species.
The "Gift" of Just Sitting, to experience the strength of just sitting in Being—a deep and quiet blessing of the aging (unfortunately seen by society as useless and meaningless)—realized by the elderly as a blessing without the hype and negativism articulated by those who have no such existential experience of the truth, who have no felt-knowledge of the wisdom of aging because they have not yet been marinated in the juices of the other gifts of the aging processes. The running, laughing joy of little children is balanced at the other end of the life continuum by the elderly who get to sit and enjoy the total continuum: from Childhood, through Adulthood, to Elder-hood.
The "Gift" of Fantasizing is an art form by which the elders' other integrated gifts allow for a revisiting of past life experiences, allow for an integration of the combined wisdom of those gifts to laser away the debris and impedimenta of the miscellaneous and mundane accretions of life, to sculpt what used to be accepted into what is now acceptable, to touch with love and care what used to be taken for granted, to pan the sands of life for the gold nuggets hidden in the ordinary material of a life. The "gift" experiences the ability of the mind to fantasize, to recreate life experiences in the present now, to break beyond the limitations of order, to break into the supra-normal capacities of the elderly that only the elderly can appreciate because only the elderly can move beyond the need to make "doing" productive.
The "Gift" of Silence is an outward sign of a special grace that lives and has its being in the environment of listening, an inward hearing that understands the outward sounds of the soul, heard beneath the words, felt in the kinesthetic interconnectedness of soul and body, resting together in an environment of silent listening—a most saintly blessing. Silence allows the "whisper" to be heard between the heartbeats, within each breath, in each note of the rhythm of one’s life.
The "Gift" of Compassion is an inward sign seeded in the reality of "passion-with," a personal intimacy of delicate touching of the soul by and with the soul, of self or the other—a magical alchemy of loving and caring that transforms the self and the other in the gentleness of unconditional regard, no gratuity required, none given—a way of being that needs the heart and soul of a duality that is an ultimate holistic oneness. Com-Passion is the first language, a sub-cellular interconnectivity that knows before cognition.
The "Gift" of Pain is both an inward and outward sign of an outward and inward friend in disguise, hidden from most in its rough cloth, a revelation dressed up like a stranger in one’s mother-land, initially unknown and fearful, ultimately rising in stature to become a beacon of light, a GPS system perfected over the centuries, unerringly directing one to the shores of the understanding of self—an ointment by the balm of pain softens and heals the difficult manifestations with a kind of love seen “only in a glass darkly” for those who have eyes to see.
The "Gift" of Wisdom is a visible sign of spirituality usually reserved for the elderly, for those who have fought the good fight, worked the fields in the sun, paid the price of admission to the "greatest show on earth," who trod the paths of the planet with discernment, who earned their prize not just by trodding but by discerning the path through the various weathers and climes of life and found the elixir of truth in their own trodding, their own discerning, their own unique perspectives of a life worth living.
The "Gift" of Solitude is a very special portal into galaxies of insight reserved for those who can retreat into a deep quiet and step gently into a place of aloneness that is chosen not imposed, a special place of lightness that illuminates the unknown future, a time of being that only the elder soul can touch in the process of aging after the doing of adulthood begins to wane. Such solitude is not an infantile regression into mental or emotional paralysis but a natural progression into the wisdom of elder-hood—it is a process of metabolizing life experiences.
The "Gift" of Letting Go is a visible sign to all and to self that a palpable movement from the known to the unknown is in the throes of change. It is an outward sign signifying the beauty of the tender soul letting go of comfort just before touching discomfort in the darkness of the grasping; it requires the spiritual courage of a soul in practice for the final letting go of all that is known in order to grasp the golden ring of the unknown of aging. The level of trust required for this transformation transcends the visible and traffics in the world of a different coin of the realm.
The "Gift" of Acceptance is the alchemy of reality as it is in its purity, coupled with the creative evolution of inner grace embracing that reality as it becomes. Acceptance is the first step out of the stagnation of the status quo and an invitation to be part of the development and growth of self as an individual and the species in general. Positive acceptance, rather than negative resignation, is an irresistible power of growth that leads to knowledge and insight that is the legacy of the manifesting soul.
The "Gift" of the Hum is a scientific fact that the universe of life is held together at a sub-cellular level by a frequency 29 octaves above middle C and can be frozen in water at a minus 42° when exposed to angry or kind words; the former forming beautiful symmetrical crystals (like snowflakes), the latter forming ugly asymmetrical crystals (like polluted water). Since human beings are 76% water, kindness, love, and care impact the other at a supra-natural depth of spiritual qualities—a sacramental blessing at the disposal of all—perhaps more especially the elderly.
The "Gift" of Forgiveness is the secret power of the knowing soul who not only understands and appreciates the imperfections of being human but also finds its primary object of forgiveness to be oneself. From that fountain of wisdom flows the healing waters of bringing forgiveness to others, not as a narcissistic act of self-righteousness but as a humble realization and insightful expression of care and responsibility of the other as an extension of self in the oneness of True Nature.
The "Gift" of Joy is more quiet and gentle than the crisp and focused joy of more youthful times—not in any way less but more gentled through polishing by the sharp edges of life, more quiet having tasted depths of happiness, more "taste-full" having been flavored in the juices of real time. From this perspective, there is a strain of awe that postulates being alive and experiencing life through the membranes of time and unique experiences of happiness.
The "Gift" of Old is a paradox to be unravelled only by the elders who have the keys to unlock the mystery life in the context of aging. The young have their life to look forward to with hope and dreams whereas the elderly have both a life to play backwards as well as a life to fast forward. Theirs is the optimum point on the life continuum where the past can be reframed and the future is a time of growth and development reserved only for the elderly—who have all the other gifts to unwrap as well. "Old" is a perspective of potential wisdom; not a natural outcome but a potential result of hard work at living life to its fullest—not merely a "growing old to die."
The "Gift" of Distractions is the ultimate "gift" sign that the elder has transcended the barriers of old age—namely, youth—and found that that lack of distraction, in fact, enhances both the gifts of old age and the ability to perceive the gifts in spite of the distractions. When all is stripped away, when all the outside falls away to leave what is left on the inside, the life of the elder is liberated to fine tune the values and virtues so long sought after but so often distracted by the process of living. Elder-hood is the final harvesting of virtue and value, courage and valor, discovery and self-realization.
The "Gift" of Procrastination is a cornucopia of opportunities to finally catch up on all those delicious things we had no time to explore when we were too involved in "doing" in our adult years. It is a to-do list in fast forward that allows us now the luxury to pick and choose at our leisure those activities or creativities that we can continue to put off until there is no consequence to doing or not doing either way. Procrastination becomes a virtue of final selection in which there is no obligation to achieve what was meaningless in the first place and seen in proper perspective from the perspective of discerning time.
The "Gift" of the Miracle of Now, a dilemma and paradox resolved in the existential experience of the integration of past and future into the present moment, the membranes of the mind’s organizational capacity are no longer needed, the soul is liberated from the compartmentalization of intellectual piecemeal parsing in order to transcend the particulars and embrace the total universal truth in the present moment (not yet easily accessible but often touched in the basic building blocks of the internet of "soul’s consciousness of reality").
The "Gift" of Remembrance is too often dismissed as an old person’s dream of a past life that has no merit in the pulsing world of accomplishment and hustle, bustle, and achievement other than to remain in time and place, limited in the memorial reality, trapped in a self identity that no longer exists in the now. However, the beauty of the reality of metabolizing the wisdom from life experiences can only be found in the history of an elder’s life, for the future does not exist and the present is too young. Only the elderly have a life expanded enough to encompass many memorial opportunities for wisdom that were not hatched in the past and needed the marination of a long life to bring truth to the surface, whereas much of the youthful insight was filled with pride and narcissism, not humility and love, care and nurturance, or affection and growth.
The "Gift" of Transcendence is the ultimate miracle of healing, for it incorporates the alchemy of acceptance and the letting go of all ego superficialities so that the soul-body-mind trinity can ascend to the super-natural level of the para-spiritual and heal what can be healed so that the physical and mental limiting distractions of reaching the maturity of seniority can be maximized even as those limitations begin to fall away from the old phylum of old life in order for the rebirth of the soul to begin again its evolutionary miracle of transcendence.
The "Gift" of Healing evolves the healing power of the involuntary and unconscious and raises all to that of a conscious, voluntary capacity of the mind, body, and soul to, on the one hand, heal the affliction, and/or on the other hand, embrace the affliction without healing, both being the quite possible probability that becomes a visible probable reality in the very act of accepting whatever will be, will be.
The "Gift" of Dying touches each individual universally but also focuses on the specific uniqueness of that individual so that, though we all die, we all die differently. In that reality, no two die the same way on the inside, where the soul has evolved according to life histories and experiences, levels of knowledge and higher cons