I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903in Letters to a Young Poet
As I inquire into the nature of the experience of aging I realize that I think about it in a very particular manner. I believe and feel that aging is biological and as with all ideas the concept of biology tells a story about its language choice or schema. ( a version of reality that describes a mental model of life)
In this case the biological schema for aging places my experience as a process that lends itself to pessimism and hard headed realism- “You know things are only going to get worse because aging is like cancer-it is a degenerative disease.”
But of course if I see aging differently and not through the lens of biology solely then there are multiple lens and story lines that are conceivable.
For instance, what about aging as the completion of the development of character. As the founder of Archetypal Psychology and Jung’s direct student-James Hillman states in “The Force of Character and the Lasting Life”, “Heraclitus said ‘Character is fate’ not anatomy, not geography as Napoleon thought but that genetic inheritance is shaped into our own peculiar pattern by character, that specific composition of traits, foibles, delights and commitments that identifiable figure bearing our name, our history and a face that mirrors ‘me’”.
It takes all the years of our life to finely tune and arrive at who we are.
As we get older we become more so who we are not less.
Think of the traits that your family laughed about when you were three- the cute way you would never back down, the persistent desire to create something that was uniquely your own, your tendencies to give freely even when it meant harm or suffering to you. Are you less that way now? I suspect that we have crystalized, cauterized, consolidated and concretized those traits.
And why are we so? Maybe it is to cope with the fears and anxieties that a story constrained by biology determines?
I suspect that our character is our guiding angel into the later years and hopefully into elder hood. Anyone can become older but wisdom is required as the sorcerer’s flux to turn lived experience into a soulful life of reflection and insight.