There is no quicker way of growing old than undue indulgence in regular habits. Indeed it seems probable that the reason why so many people die sooner than they should is because they have organised their lives in such a way that there is nothing left for them to do. Change, as is well-known, is not only a law of Nature, but the very breath of existence. And if you rule change out of your life there no longer seems any reason why you should continue altogether.
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Suddenly it seemed to me that I looked back from a great distance on that smile and saw it all again – the smile and the day, the whole sunny, sad, funny, wonderful day and all the days that we had spent here together. What was I going to do when such days came no more? There could not be many; for we were a family growing old. And how would I learn to live without these people? I who needed them so little that I could stay away all year – what should I do without them?
Public Domain Image via Pixabay
I am convinced that most people do not grow up… We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias.
Over the years I travelled to another universe. However alert we are, however much we think we know what will happen, antiquity remains an unknown, unanticipated galaxy. It is alien, and old people are a separate form of life. They have green skin, with two heads that sprout antennae. They can be pleasant, they can be annoying–in the supermarket, these old ladies won’t get out of my way–but most important they are permanently other. When we turn eighty, we understand that we are extraterrestrial. If we forget for a moment that we are old, we are reminded when we try to stand up, or when we encounter someone young, who appears to observe green skin, extra heads, and protuberances.
Staring and staring into the mirror, it sees many faces within its face – the face of the child, the boy, the young man, the not-so-young man – all present still, preserved like fossils on superimposed layers, and, like fossils, dead. Their message to this live dying creature is: Look at us – we have died – what is there to be afraid of?
Meet Hy Snell, who has been painting for seven decades. At 94 he possesses only 5% of his eyesight, but he keeps working, still trying to paint the best work he has ever done. It is his hope that the unusual perspective given him by his fading eyesight will help him create art that is truly groundbreaking and different. The joy he feels to be doing what he loves is contagious. He frequently cracks jokes and breaks into song in a voice strong for his years. What an inspiration!
This video is from a series of four mini-documentary films made by the creative collective Variable, based in New York City, for Pfizer’s campaign “Get Old”. The goal is to encourage positive views on aging by bringing out inspiring stories of older people who defy expectations. Modern society is often obsessed with youth and celebrity, denying the benefits of a life well-lived. What a wonderful reality check!