“Though there are many individuals who are the exception, it seems that modern society has chosen a very specific age to aspire to.. that age when one is just on the doorstep of adulthood- When you are legally an adult and in charge of your own life yet still ‘carefree’ and not responsible for much besides your own wants, needs and desires- perhaps somewhere in the early twenties or possibly late teens. People dye their hair, workout like fiends and go as far as putting themselves under the knife to look the part, refusing to date anyone over X or at least find someone who is “young for their age”. They brag about their extreme activities, sexual prowess or “youthful” adventures while shunning adjectives like “wisdom”, “elder” or “dignity”. Abilities lost with natural aging are hidden from others, for to admit them might mean being thought of as “old”….
What happened to celebrating the gathered wisdom, experience and peace earned of a life long lived? 23 was a wonderful age, but I have been there and done that. I see no shame or sadness in desiring to walk gracefully into the future led by those who came before me, accepting the mantle of woman, matron, elder and, one day, crone if I am blessed enough to live so long. And as my hairs, one by one, turn silver, I can only hope that I will not be judged or valued on the good qualities I possessed at 23 but on all of the wonderful knowledge and character I have managed to obtain along the way since….. ”
I wrote this in response to an article, but I wanted to add that children today are under the same push as those of us over “our prime”. (I say “our prime” with rolled eyes.) They are told to hurry their way to the new ‘golden age’; to “act adult” (whatever that means) at younger and younger ages whether through overscheduling, being encouraged to dress like young adults or in overtly sexual ways, contemplating their future college admissions as early as junior high or even through the subject matter distributed at schools. I was confounded when very emotionally intense ‘adult’ literature dealing with subjects from war crimes to rape to mental illness was given to my children in junior high. This literature is brilliant and well written but was intended to hit hard at an adult audience whose callouses from their own experiences would help protect their psyches from damage at reading such painful detail and horror. While I have no issue with the subject matter in general nor with the high intellectual level of the writing itself, to subject a child to such hard hitting adult fare when so much wonderful and emotionally age appropriate literature is available on many of the subjects raised seems almost abusive but it is fairly common. The push at schools is often solely on the intellectual growth of the child and placating certain teachers’ or admins’ overzealous egos. Even “sensitivity” or personal developement class curriculums tend intellectualize those subjects as well, not taking into account the developing emotions and sensitivities of newly blooming individuals. Like many areas in our modern world, even human beings seem to have now been divided into sections (“intellect”, “emotions”, body, etc) as though we contain seperate slots for each aspect of ourselves rather than having them woven together in an interactive and healthy whole.
Have we stopped both celebrating the glorious path from birth to death and accepting our place along the way? It’s worth thinking about.
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players,
They have their exits and entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then, the whining schoolboy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice
In fair round belly, with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well sav’d, a world too wide,
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again towards childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”
~ William Shakespeare