16 December 2020

Gifts of Aging & Long Life


Let’s go straight to topic. The following are some of the benefits and opportunities which came to mind when this idea passed by.

• We get to have many lives in this one lifetime passage.

What a gift it is to be born into this era of human history with so much to experience. Short as our lives are, we have the expanded potential to experience more in one lifespan than our brothers and sisters in any time of recorded history.

Many individuals only live days, months or a few years. But, on average, humans in this age live almost twice as long as our ancestors, not that many generations past. From that standpoint alone, most of us get the equivalent of at least two lifetimes.

As we age, most of us in elder years can look back at that Gift of Long Years. We can also be thankful for having seen distant lands; beyond the county or state of our birth. We remember meeting people on home South Dakota prairie who had not traveled outside of the three counties which surrounded their abodes. The same thing might be said about numbers of people who live in big cities.  

Communication and transportation of modern times adds to the Gifts of Years. We have and still can travel to the other side of the state, country, and world. We can turn on the TV or computer and see in real time what goes on thousands of miles away. We can speak instantly to friends and family in distant continents.

The wonders of books and libraries expanded people’s horizons when Gutenberg developed his printing press in the 15th century. Now, computers and digital libraries allow for vastly greater possibilities for study and learning. We can learn and grow until our last days.

All this just described leaves need to mention the large numbers of people we can meet in a long, modern lifetime. Today, most of us can and do encounter many times more fellow humans than all but political persons and royal ones living in cities did in past centuries.

All sorts of opportunities surround us – and lie within us – if we only take the time to look for them in the midst of the distractions of our days. Often we don’t even have look for them. The people we meet, the events in our lives, the places we travel, the books we read can all help us to recover the wonders of our past years, to right the wrongs we have done, and help build a better world. To bring the kingdom to light in our very midst.

So, we get more than one lifetime in this one spent in a busy, advanced society. But, there is more.

• We have much time to review, remember, relearn. We can look over and moderate our past experiences. Then consider what we have done right, and what we have done wrong.

An old friend told me long ago, “It’s all practice.” Well, we can practice humility with regard to the things we have gotten right. For what we have gotten wrong, we can make direct amends when possible. If not directly, we can do the process on paper or mentally address ones we have offended or harmed, living or passed on. All our practice, when well intended, should lead us to be better beings wherever we find ourselves after we leave this physical life.

To the writer’s way of thinking, our practice will help us do a better job as humans in our next lifetimes. Karma and rebirth are a fact in his thinking and experience.

With long life, we have the extra benefits of recollection and penance. We can use our extra years to add to our treasures the goodness we have shared and the benefits of lessons gained from our errors.

• We may, with the help of prolonged years, share our gifts - wisdom, love.

Many will say, “No one will listen to an old wo/man like me.” But, we believe it depends on time and circumstances. It seems these days that hardly anybody pays much heed to anybody else.

But, all is cycle and change. When the time is right, any growth we attain will find value to others.

They say, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Sometimes, it may be just as accurate to stated, “When the teacher is ready, the student will appear.”

So, we can use our latter, extended years to learn, grow in knowledge, experience and wisdom. Then, we will be ready to teach whomsoever appears. Whenever the time occurs.

• We may begin to discover who we really are. Ultimately, life is about learning to love.

Long life gives us many opportunities to learn and study things in the outer worlds. But especially in this time when we do not have to fend for daily fare, life also offers us many opportunities to look within and ponder:

What’s it all about?

What am I doing?

What is the reason for my existence?

Why did my life pass the way it did?

What lies ahead?

Most importantly, we can ask:

Who am I?

The ancient sages long, long ago repeated the great dictum: Know Thyself. If we look deeply within, we may begin to find answers to that wonderful question.

• With this idea in mind, we came up with a simple exercise which may help us to answer this question: Who am I?

If the reader is willing, dig up a few photos covering a spectrum of your life, something like those before you now. Here, we lay out photos of the writer, Robert McNary, as an example.

Bob pix

Go from early years to near time and look at the pictures of the person before you. Speak to him or her, if you like.

Then, simply ask the question: Which one of you am I?

You may have a quick response. Rather than sharing our own right now, maybe you will take the time to tell us about yours.

After you have put it in writing, maybe you can add whether this simple process has had any affect on – Who you think you are. It may be revealing immediately or bring forth impressions over time.

Comments always welcome at theportableschool at gmail dot com.

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