A few days ago, as I briskly walked the Vancouver Seawall, a young couple ran passed me with the elegance and confidence of two gazelles. A few steps behind me, a young mother held the hand of a toddler learning to walk alongside her. That’s when I thought, I am living the Riddle of the Sphinx. You know how it goes…
What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?
The solution of course is a man who crawls on all fours as a baby, walks on two legs as an adult, and walks with a cane in old age.
When we talk about change, we consider it to be an external influence – it occurs because some catalyst has made it happen. Change appears at our doorstep when someone or something or some circumstance forces it upon us. It is an outside stimulus that generates a defensive response that includes staying positive, eating right and having a manageable exercise program. We register for the latest technology courses and sign up for a series of inspirational talks, read a motivating book and involve ourselves with friends and family that support and encourage our progress. We move forward by accepting new ideas and participating within an ever shifting environment.
There is another kind of change that is more difficult to accept, let alone embrace with enthusiasm. We are finite creatures that live on a timeline. We call it the aging process which is a nice way of saying that our bodies are growing old. The equation contracts to a simple:
Time = 0
Aging occurs at twenty just as quickly as it does at 60. In fact, Time = 0 happens many times over our lifetime, simply because our bodies are no longer able to compete in a specific arena. We see this often in sports – hockey players, professional skaters, downhill skiers. Athletes have a few competitive peak years until they hand the baton over to others with younger, more agile bodies. The same can be said for dancers. The average age of a prima ballerina does not fall into the forties decade. Even singers have an optimum age when their voices are strong and assured.
Aging is a physical process that may take away time, but it also gives us a deeper understanding of our humanity. Without our bodies, we would not see a beautiful sunrise or snow on a mountaintop; experience the warmth of a summer day or the chill of a winter’s breath; hear a child’s laugher, the music of an orchestra, or the crashing sounds of waves on a beach; walk on a grassy knoll or climb the steps to the Parthenon.
There will come a day when our hair will turn grey, the laughter wrinkles will be more pronounced and we take the first step with a cane. Celebrate, for growing old is a privilege denied many. Our bodies have faithfully carried us from Point A to Point B over the varied and intricate graphs of our life. They have given us the ultimate equation – the ability to give and receive.
“No one longs to live more than someone growing old.” Sophocles