Back to blog
This is getting Old. Written for you, the Forever Young.
Share your work with family and friends!

Though it’s obvious, when I look in the mirror, I am no longer young, I do abdicate from that visual information. The now famous writer, Ruth Ozeki, has conducted a cogent experiment. In the exercise, based on a Zen practice, Ozeki committed to looking at herself in the mirror for three hours, uninterrupted. In her subsequent book: “Face: A Time Code,” she describes this experience. Perhaps this is something for me to do. It would be like a sensory deprivation tank, without sensory deprivation. Could I handle a reality check of that Intensity?

What is old? Susan Moon, activist, scholar, Buddhist feminist (co-editor of the groundbreaking book “The Hidden Lamp,” a history of “25 centuries of Awakened Women”, and former Vice President of SF Zen Center, has written a book about this, humorously entitled “This is Getting Old.” She talks about her own denial around aging, despite her lifelong practice of looking life in the eye without quaver through the lens of the Dharma. “I am a baby at getting old,” she asserts up front. She also writes about the hidden benefits of looking at what is painful, and what repulses us.

I must agree that I too am a baby at getting old. I do quaver at looking life in the eye, fully embracing the painful and distasteful. So! Here is opportunity to grow up a bit. Susan began by making a list of all the things that were changing. It struck me that, as she made her list, one thing that didn’t change is that she kept on writing. I find this very encouraging. I would especially extend this encouragement to you, who are young. There is a world of writing that has the power to extend even further into your life, even as the body falls apart. I don’t journal furiously as I did in my 20s. But here I am, still scribbling, even though my words are spare. I like to think these later words are of more value to anyone who might read them, including myself. More connected now than the ambitious tower of individuality that I built so meticulously in my youth. All tumbled down, now (I like to think), and thank goodness. I think of the short story” Flowers for Algernon,” by Daniel Keyes (renamed into “Charlie,” played by Cliff Roberson in the movie), how Charlie kept on writing, even as his mind so beautifully constructed, fell apart before his eyes, and his mentor’s eyes as well. Even that was important to document. I recommend that short story, if you haven’t read it. It stands well as a heartbreakingly touching allegory of dementia, which is now touching so many lives.

We can write even as the words fall off the page and into the void. As they always are, anyway.

Culturally, aging is an inconvenient and distasteful apparition. It flits across our radar occasionally as a ghost whom we wishfully hope is just not real. Very much like death, it is remote, until it is close. Susan urges us to engage, writing of aging’s benefits: the depth, the connections, “the new openings into the spirit, new ways of being alive that aging was bringing me.” (Moon, Susan. This Is Getting Old. Shambhala. Kindle Edition. p. ii)

All our writing is an attempt (Montaigne, according to Moon defined the word “essay” as “attempt”) to come to our grips with the world, and so ourselves. Zen Master Dogen might say that all the world is just waiting to enlighten us. No wonder we clutch and massage at it with our thoughts through our words. Even science fiction, speculative fiction, dystopian fiction, fan fiction, and all fictions not yet named are attempts to inhabit parts of us that otherwise remain beyond the reach of realized embodiment. By disposition, we especially applaud fiction writers, for they bring us to worlds otherwise not visited. And yet, within in the wildest fiction is the quest for what is right here in our intimate selves.

I digress, but I do not apologize. I find my writing always an odd combination of the prosaic and the poetic. I am very pleased, at last, these two literary fellows have decided to live together not only peaceably, but within the verve of an exciting relationship. I have waited a long time for this to come about. I have waited, until I am old. I think a lot of getting old, being old, is about even more waiting. I don’t know what I am waiting for now. But I want to be old enough to be a worthy vessel, a vessel capable of properly embracing whatever awaits me.

Leave your comment...