Today, my buddy Kevin is in town so we get to sit down for one of our deep philosophical talks. The talk turns to aging. Why do we age anyway? I guess biologically and from an evolutionary viewpoint, we couldn’t live forever. Otherwise there would be no room for offspring and no need to reproduce after a certain amount of time. So, after a population has reached a certain level, death becomes necessary. But, death comes all kinds of ways. Death can come from starvation or from a predator. Death comes from accidents. Then, there is disease (why disease is another question that pops into my mind- why viruses and bacteria whose sole mission in life seems to be to kill their hosts?). So death comes.
Besides death, why do we age? Why the gray hair and the balding and the wrinkles? There’s more and more gray in my beard. More and more hair in my ears (and less on top of my head. Why do we have scars? I have a scar on my arm that goes back to when I was six years old. None of the cells in that scar are the original scar tissue, but when my body creates new cells in that area, for the rest of my life it will create scar tissue there instead of normal tissue. Why? Maybe it’s because when I look at that scar it reminds me of an event that might have shaped my life in some way. Maybe it’s a way of saying “Don’t do that again.”
I think aging is a visible and palpable reminder that we are not going to inhabit these bodies forever. As we age and look into the mirror, we are reminded every day that we’re not that 25 year old anymore. When we get out of a chair after sitting for a while our knees sometimes scream “Hey, we’re not getting any younger."
Kayla is home this weekend and she and her 20 year old friend are making fun of Ty and her new reading glasses. They think it’s funny that us old people can’t do the things we used to do, that we need glasses to see things they can see easily. There was a time that would have bothered me. Not anymore. My perspective has shifted. I realize I am not my body. I am fully aware of that now. What you see is just my current incarnation. Even though there probably isn’t a molecule in my body that was there when I was five years old (my earliest memory), I am still the same Brian. Even though this body doesn’t look like the body of the 29 year old that married Ty 25 years ago, I am still Brian. I am not a 54 year old. 54 is the age my body happens to be now. My grandmother tried to explain that to me once when I was in my teens. I didn’t get it at all. I get it now, Grandbaby. I snicker to myself as Kayla and Madison have fun at our expense. I nearly say I would like to be alive to see their children make fun of them like this. I know that day is coming. But frankly I don’t want to be in the body that long. I do hope I am there in Spirit to see it though.
Back to aging. Biologically, I don’t see the reason for it. Scientists think the physical process has something to do with our telomeres, caps at the end of our DNA sequences. Telomeres shorten as we get older, scientists think leading to aging. Scientist are working on ways to lengthen them or keep them longer, theoretically slowing or stopping the aging process. That’s interesting enough. Some say it would probably increase the rate of cancer. I don’t know. At this point, I’m not really interested. Bring on the aging. The gray in the beard, the balding don’t bother me. The hair in the ears, well I could do without that. I saw a quote yesterday that compared our bodies to cars. We drive a vehicle until it’s worn out (or we’re tired of it), then we trade it in for another. Very few mistake their cars for themselves. We maintain our cars, we like our cars, but they are just cars. When the time comes we let them go.
I think aging is God’s way of gently reminding us the time to let go grows one day closer every day. That new model is waiting for us when that day comes.