Aging is the experience of time moving through you. You cannot control, deny, or evade it. The experience of becoming old is the primal expression of time. The wild, feral forces of nature animate you. Your presence here is transient. A momentary participant inside the great flow of life that is your home. Your presence here is fleeting, brief, and momentary. You are a child of transience. Learn to feel the mystery within. It is where your life begins.
The Illusion of Control
We assume that time is something we can plan, manage, and control. We maintain the illusion of time as a series of evenly spaced units moving incessantly forward. We measure and organize time chronologically using clocks and calendars. Inside this fabrication, we design ways to control and manage time to work efficiently, organize activities, and engage in the daily survival game of getting things done.
Society organizes our lives into phases. Childhood and education are synonymous. We are prepared for survival in the workforce. We spend most of our lives as adults in the workforce engaging in an incessant five-day struggle to earn a living. Then, if you are fortunate, you retire from the workforce and wonder what to do with your time now that, in old age, it is yours again.
Of course, that description is stiff. It lacks nuance and variation. However, unexamined assumptions force you to live according to pre-determined patterns. Society controls time at a systemic level. The temporal constraints imposed on you are silent, invisible, and effective. Your time in life is not your own.
The Embodiment of Time
You did not choose to be born. You did not choose your parents. You did not choose your gender or race. You did not choose your initial social status. You did not choose the society that assimilated you. You did not choose your cultural assumptions, traditions, or beliefs.
You were born in a time and place not of your own choosing. Death is like that too. In between birth and death, you undertake the struggle of learning to live a life worth living.
During your youth, aging was growth toward maturity. The experience of becoming older was one of growing up and out into the world. Childhood and education are synonymous. We are not creative enough to think of better ways. Nevertheless, you gained independence, found a way to survive in your surround, and became an independent person.
You reach full maturity before age 30. At this point, an irrevocable transformation takes place. Clocks and calendars are of no use in this realm of time. Youth abandons you. You are an adult. And you are not young anymore. You sense your body changing course. Time begins to feel different in you, even though it marches on in the world around you as if nothing happened. You feel embodiment in unfamiliar ways now.
Midlife life has new and unfamiliar lines of force than youth. A seismic biological shift has forced you irrevocably into adulthood. Chronology can’t help you here because it does not map on to aging very well. You don’t know the time or date of your transformation. You don’t know if the transformation took a minute or days. But you do know this – the feeling of being alive is forever changed.
Before you know it, midlife vanishes, and you are old. You are a senior now, which is an adult that has been around a long time. Now you feel aging as a more foreboding presence. The horizons of old age are different from midlife or youth. When you become old, you experience a deeper and more profound sense of intimacy with time.
You will die, most likely at a time, place, and manner out of your control. You may be able to extend your life, but, in the end, death will find you and lead you back into the mystery from which you came.
Aging is the Mystery Moving Through You
Chronological time has value. It is a necessary fiction that makes productivity and time management possible. It helps us to organize and coordinate our activities together. It encourages goal setting and helps you to track progress over time. And larger patterns of temporal organization help us to work and play together.
In the end, chronological time is a convenient illusion. Aging does not have a natural connection with chronology. There are no chronological markers for aging in the body. We can accurately measure blood pressure, but there is no test that can tell you how many years you have lived. Aging means that the essence of time is biological, energetic, and mysterious.
Chronological time is also an intellectual abstraction. It promotes a stiff analytical sensibility expressed in statistical generalizations such as life expectancy, morbidity rates, and health span. These averages may help social organization, but they are meaningless to you. There is no way to know what kind of statistic your life will become.
Aging is the pure, natural, and mysterious expression of time. You tend to forget this. Or you never really thought about it enough. Dissociation, avoidance, and denial are common responses grounded in fear. But you need to embrace the wild and feral forces of nature that make life possible. They are in you and all around you. Everywhere all at once.
Do not forget about the mystery moving through you. If you do, you will not know how to live.