White cauliflower clouds spattered the smalt colored sky. It was a perfect day for busking. And whilst doing so I did contemplate my age, for just a couple weeks ago (May 31st to be exact) I became sixty-four years old. People, mostly friends, say I do not look sixty-four; and people, mostly friends, say I do not act sixty-four. Nonetheless, I am sixty-four and I must mention that aging, at times, can be physically and psychologically difficult.
B.F. Skinner, 78 years of age and the patriarch of behavioral psychology, stated, “It’s easier to be young than old.” Indeed.
According to most pop psychologists, the secret to staying young is to keep creating stimulating environments. To stay forever young we must consciously design our worlds in which we can behave reasonably young, so they say (they being those folk psychologists who scribe for the beatific mags lining the drug store shelves).
Fact: Getting old … it ain’t easy.
Fact: Stereotypically, old people are socially boring.
Old people who are boring are old people who talk too much about the good old days. Old people who are boring are old people who also talk too much about their physical aches and pains. Old people who are boring are people who behave like old people.
Behave. Yes! I believe aging to be a behavior. I believe old age to be a social construct.
The prevailing Zeitgeist of the Western world has always been (in my time) that ETERNAL YOUTH IS THE KEY TO HAPPINESS. And people through the ages have known that the curative to keeping eternal youth is simply finding the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH.
Everyone knows that the Fountain of Youth is the elixir of life, the elixir of immortality, the mythical potion that when drunk, grants the drinker eternal life. Historically, this fabled elixir has been sought by the most ancient of Chinese emperors (many having fatal results whilst so doing); in Hindu scriptures there is mention of Amrita, described as the elixir of life or the nectar of immortality; and in the King James Version of the Bible, Jesus in John 4:14 states, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
For those early Christians, the doxology seemed to have worked.
Fact: Methuselah, a man in the Hebrew Bible, lived to age 969.
Factoid: Methuselah died just seven days before the beginning of the Great Flood, just days before Noah loaded all the animal two-by-two into the ark.
Factoid: In the ten-generative sequence from Adam to Noah, Methuselah was numero eight; a calculation that would suggest that Methuselah was Noah’s grandfather.
Factoid: Noah lived to only 500 years old (the longevity of the people was beginning to shorten!)
Meanwhile … back to B.F. Skinner. While B. F. Skinner writes reams on growing old, he has developed a schedule of personal behaviors that pretty much define his Methuselah Manual:
4:40 … B. F. Skinner wakes up and has a cup of coffee.
5:00 … B. F. Skinner works in his study.
11:15 … B. F. Skinner walks two miles to his Harvard office.
Noon … B. F. Skinner catches the city bus to home.
Afternoon … B. F. Skinner reads, or watches television, or listens to music.
Some psychological drams on happiness and getting old:
- Sigmund Freud, the founder of modern Psychology, described the goal of psychoanalysis as being to transform neurotic misery into common unhappiness. According to Freud, the client should get couch comfy and free associate, saying whatever comes to mind, VENTILATING and unburdening pain and misery, whilst the analyst in the backdrop writes notes.
There is little doubt that the reality of immortality is a common misery, the dragon’s teeth for those middle-aged and upwards. Perhaps it is couch counselling that is the fountain of youth.
- Alfred Adler (Individual Psychology) placed emphasis on the concept of SOCIAL INTEREST, as the key to human happiness. According to Adler, happiness depended for the most part on social interaction, the sense of engagement and belonging.
There is little doubt that loneliness is a common and ponderous unhappiness among the aged. Perhaps getting more skin in the game could be the fountain youth. This pun is intended -- just read the research on the sexuality of seniors in retirement communities.
- Otto Rank, (Psychoanalyst and writer) said CREATIVITY was the essential ingredient for happiness. Then perhaps my being a singer-songwriter of quaint renown be the key to my youth.
- EXISTENTIAL THERAPY, though typically associated with European existential philosophy, mostly doom and gloom, darkness and despair. Anxiety, depression, and other ultimate concerns ought to be confronted, rather than avoided. In Existentialism, confrontation means coming to terms; it means coming to be receptive and coming to understand that each such malady is, in some positive sense, significant. Perhaps life has only the meaning that each one of us attaches to it.
To summarize all of the above: Does it really matter whether one is youthful or aged? Age does not make a difference in anything, especially if anyone’s life is just a continuum of meaningful moments.
Pungle up, folks … this is Existential Therapy.
To live is to suffer is the skinny of Zen, but ironically one cannot endure suffering unless there is a meaning to the suffering (Albert Camus, Joseph Campbell, Viktor Frankl).
The artists among us have a penchant for creating products for the masses, for the social appreciation in the gallery, in the theatre, and on the stage (Alfred Adler, Otto Rank).
And when anyone finally does attach meaning to suffering, what better way to express such frustration aloud than on a couch with a counsellor writing notes (Sigmund Freud).
Though YOUTH is the condition of being young, once in adulthood, to reclaim that youth would be the appearances characteristic of being young; freshness, vigor, and contemporary political and fashionable awareness, being just a few examples.
And not just psychologists have opinions about aging:
- If you’re not getting older you’re dead. (Tom Petty)
- The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected. (Robert Frost)
- There is a fountain of youth; it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life. (Sophia Loren)
Take heed, dear reader. The FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH is not illusory, at least not for me. My FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH duende is to stay on the path, and the path that I follow every day in summertime starts early morning with a three mile run, continues later with an afternoon bike ride, and oftentimes ends with a walk in the dusk.
|I TOOK THIS PICTURE ON AN EARLY MORNING RUN AROUND WASCANA LAKE|
Marching in my CHAUCERIAN PARADE this week at the FARMERS MARKET (and keeping in step to my theme of youth):
- KEVIN BANMAN, my first customer at the Farmers Market, told me this story about his friend’s experience in Nashville.
Patton MacLean, his friend, is sitting on the porch of a rented vacation house in Nashville, playing his guitar and blowing his harps. An older man walks by and compliments his harp playing, which Patton (sort of) dismisses.
The older man retorts to Patton’s lack of interest:
“Well, playing a harp on a rack is like steering a car with your feet. You’re playing two harps on a rack, and you’re singing, and you’re picking a guitar. And you ain’t crashing either of them cars. Son, you gotta learn to take a compliment.”
And then my notion of Phenomenology kicks in.
- I give Phenomenological meaning to my complicated friend, ROBIN DAIGNAULT, and her sidekick, RUDY, who next happened by. I’ve not seen Robin since we played an outdoor game of hockey last winter. I’ve drawn Rudy’s portrait, but this was the first time meeting in real life.
Your hair is the color of the clouds. It makes you look older, said Robin, and thus my inserted Phenomenology.
Ouch! ... Methinks, at sixty-four years I've learned that taking compliments is much easier than taking personal criticisms. I was frailing my twelve-string and blowing my harpoon and I wasn’t crashing either car at the time.