A report from the Slow Lane
“If we don’t have extended consciousness to match our (new) life span,
we are dying longer instead of living longer.” — Rabbi Zalman Schacter
I’m getting older. At my next birthday I’ll be 63. In this culture, that is over the hill. I don’t feel old. My memory isn’t what it used to be, but then again neither is my lifestyle. I suspect, as luck would have it, I am getting old at just the right time. There is the hard won wisdom I have come into, a demographic surge of my kind, and the fact that my old brain is well-suited to hold the big picture. Being old, being 63, has never been like this before. I’m probably going to live longer than any generation has lived before. No doubt that means some new and unforeseen problems, but it looks like it also means some new and unforeseen opportunities.
Amongst the unforeseen opportunities lays consciousness and maturity. Maybe, because we have been granted this miraculous opportunity of longevity, we can grow into our species potential. Just once, I would like to hold up my head and feel pride for our kind. We have shown a remarkable capacity to care for others, and ourselves, in crisis, but we haven’t yet shown ourselves that we are capable of being our best, of fulfilling our potential, of serving life. Anything approximating this kind of aware-being will change the meaning of being in the way to something more life serving.
I don’t know about you, but I relish the chance to kick around and see what kind of changes I can generate. I plan on being really in the way. First off, I have no desire to apologize to anyone for being old. I’m not so set in my ways that I refuse to learn new tricks, but I don’t plan on just going along with the crowd either. I like the me my life experience has allowed me to discover, and I don’t intend to let me go for some new idea that doesn’t really honor what I’ve learned about life. If that makes me strange, then so be it, I’m ready to be a little strange. Especially if I get a sense that the big picture isn’t being adequately considered.
Being in the way used to be a slur that was aimed at old people. I intend to turn it into a calling, a chance to be true to what matters, a personal responsibility. I hope I can turn being in the way into an art form. I think the world needs more of us, in the way. Maybe that is the great hidden secret of having so many boomers, generating this dramatic demographic shift, coming along now. The work of the sixties is not done. We didn’t have the maturity required to finish the job of freedom then. Maybe we still don’t, but we can further the process, we can advance the ball, not only for the old, but for everybody.
I don’t think I’m retiring. I think that I’m just getting ripe. I now have a voice, I’ve gotten used to being disabled, I’m alive with a new fervor. I may have 20 years no one expected (least of all, me), and I’m really tired, tired of being bound up in somebody else’s dream. The new, unexpected years deserve a new, and better, dream. I think that Evolution is at work, that it has created this opportunity for some kind of wiser human to be on the scene, and I intend to play along with it.
This is a time when being old, where having seen some things before, where having the chance to go further, to be even more, is going to make a difference, not just to entitlement programs, but to our species sense of perspective. I think the elder years hold the prospect of advancing our kind beyond adolescence. I hope so. I think elders have a better chance to really reflect values that go beyond the marketplace. I pray that we know, and are willing to live for, what really matters. If so, then I have every confidence that we, the old ones, are going to make a difference. In the process I expect to be old and in the way.
Seven Reasons These Are the Power Years
- We’ll be living longer and healthier
- the cyclic life plan (cycling in and out of careers) will replace the outmoded linear model
- We’ll have a big — and growing — pool of role models
- We’ll be wiser about what matters
- We’ll have new freedoms
- We’ll still have clout in the marketplace (advertisers will break free of their addiction to youth).
- We’ll be open to change.
— Ken Dychtwald from Audacious Aging