‘Getting Old’ is Past Tense

          I am not certain when the statement lost its lucidity, and then its validity. To many, its meaning gets vague and misplaced as the experience gradually creeps up on them. After being reluctant and unwilling to admit it for some time, I suddenly felt comfortable to own the status. There was a sense of relief and dignity of accomplishment, of earning something that was yearned for. I have finally arrived at the last plateau, or perhaps the precipice.
I am old! I am old!
          Old age is neither a milestone nor a stage in life. It is a standing, a statement, and the final exploit on a long journey. One may be able to achieve almost anything by striving hard for it, except seniority in age, which demands to wait and certain scrutiny that permits durability. It is a gradual offering, but the feeling is distinct and unique once it is conferred. I feel secure and qualified to claim.
         From here, many of us ruminate. Where we came from, what we came through, where we stand and where we go; but most precariously, how we go. The meditations are muddled and sundry, nostalgic at times to morbid at the other extreme. I realize that the reality is beyond speculations, at best assumed on many sets of actuarial averages, genetic donations, chemical combinations, habitual disciplines, and mental manipulations, perhaps garnished with a measure of submission to destiny based on the convenience of our belief system. But often as I muse over the complexity and common sense of our existence, I choose to admit my limitations and the futility of such endless explorations. But since I have nothing to lose by venturing into such adventures, my contemplations continue to wander.
        The past in life is merged memory, and the future, of course, remains a nebulous conjecture. We dwell in and deal with the momentary present, drawing from what we lost and empowering that which we may never arrive at.
       It is calming to reflect. Our life may be sensed as a minute, microcosmic entity in the enormous complex of the totality of being. In the fathomless continuum of the cosmic consciousness, our tiny globe, the mother earth is but a minuscule delegate. In spite of the possible, ingenious creature residing in some far off galaxies and the fictional aliens invading in their UFOs, we humans remain the only intelligent, functional lives that have been ever identified and understood. The exquisitely precise and distinct order that is ordained into the origin and progress of our evolution is also meticulously disciplined by an entity beyond our comprehension and further than our imagination. By the same authority, life in all its appearance takes origin, performs, and perishes after meeting the intended purpose.
      Every form of creation obediently and reverently adheres to nature’s regulations and dictations, thus maintaining certain ecological and biological conservation and continuity. That is all the entities except us, the humans. When every kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species of the entire taxonomic way of life follows the laid guidelines, only the homo-sapiens, the human race, dared and ventured into adapting and altering Nature to improve its convenience. Our kind explored the resources, modified the assets, converted the old, invented the new, and surprised Mother Nature to varying degrees of submission, modification, resilience, and often retribution. The man seemed to benefit from his ambitious pursuits, enjoying longevity in life, comforts, convenience, and gratification that were not prescribed to the other species. If we continue to prevail in our comprehension and subsequent conquest of elements responsible for our being here, we can conceive of a theoretical possibility of achieving the two eventual goals: knowing the meaning of and preventing the end of, this existence. Unless Nature outwits our doings with its own schemes to overhaul its design!
       To have been chosen to have a human life is a prized recognition. What we were able to accomplish with it, is our own conclusion. Ironically, by the time we are tempted to scrutinize our performance and arrive at some assessment, we have moved beyond options for correction. And always, we are sadly reminded of the many choices that could have been different in our selection or in our performance. We also tend to conveniently overlook the several decisions we were prompted to make that guided us along the proper path and out of harm’s way. Perhaps because of our belief system, our inquisitive upbringing, and the over-reliance on our own abilities, we refuse to allow credit to factors beyond our sensible assessment, which may have been accountable in everything that happens. Evaluating our own life in parallel to that of the milieu around us is mandatory and consolatory. Every situation happens only when a multitude of elements and ingredients converge to endorse. We award the credit to our efforts when we succeed, and we often blame others when the reverse is the case. But our input is only a fraction of the equation and the outcome is frequently a complex consortium of factors acting in unison.
      Relationships make life meaningful; rather it becomes meaningless without worthy relations. Reminding the quote by Aristotle, “Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally, Is either a beast or a god”, we need to often analyze, and evaluate our experience offering credit to people and circumstances that have influenced our lives. The relations we were fortunate to have through birth, those we chose to be with, or the ones who happened to be associated with us through living, are all significant entities entwined with us for a reason. We remain blessed, savoring our fortune to have been associated with the members of our family, our friends, and our various acquaintances, who have added to enrich our lives in ways more than we can count.
      We are required of a certain performance as a human being; as a child, a sibling, a spouse, a parent or as a student, a professional, an employee, or as a citizen and it is seldom that we make an effort to evaluate ourselves in those roles. Did we live up to our expectations regarding our obligations in the several roles that we were assigned to? Within limitations of our ability, affordability, resources, attitude, and several other subjective parameters, and more importantly, based on the scrutiny of our own conscience, such appraisals may come up with an inference that may console or disturb us. But an attempt in that direction, an effort to arrive at our own conclusions should be within our laundry list to complete.
          We perpetually remain anxious about our children and our loved ones. We worry over what has already happened and what all might, in the future. Our apprehension spreads over an enormous spread of concerns and we fully acknowledge and accept our helplessness. We feel repentant that we could have and should have dealt with our parenting role on a different set of guidelines; spent more time with them, helped them more with their schooling, cultivated a different relationship, or saved a heftier inheritance. But the forgone times are behind us and the only option is to be convinced that we did the best we could. We pray for their constant and continuous well-being and we hope that we have left a legacy worthy of emulation, that our progeny would be proud to cultivate honesty, integrity, involvement, and compassion as we lived. And a major favor to them; keep our documents updated and our junks discarded.
          Be grateful to have had this life with all its petals and its thorns; it has been a gracious bequest, a blessing that we deserved. The only stability has been an assurance for change, an uninterrupted and unrelenting transformation that should alert us of the impermanence of life. Perhaps such changes affirm the awareness and authority of an underlying, constant, stable substrate that is the real us. And as we await the next major metamorphosis, accept it as yet another inevitable ripple in the ongoing, mysterious, massive design in the totality of the cosmic consciousness. And after all, it may not be a plateau or a precipice; it may just be 95 an attribute of the human perception about the Ultimate Reality. (May 2013)

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

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