There are two ways to grow old: physically and mentally. There isn’t much one can do about the physical part. Oh, one may try exercise programs, diets, vitamin supplements and the like, but eventually enough parts will wear out and that will be that. The same is true regarding the mental part. Keeping young in spirit for most of us is possible. But it takes work.
We started thinking about this when we were in Chattanooga, down along the Georgia border, for a family wedding weekend. Guests ranged from teens to those of us who were middle-aged when the bride and groom were infants. Participating in their life-changing event as family and guests demonstrated the continuum of life as clearly as anything could. Those whose lives are not yet independent, and those of us who are closer to dependence of another sort, bookended the guest list and helped make the weekend a memorable event for all.
As I hope you all know by now,we live on a mountain in a community populated by very few others (actually there are a lot of residents, but most are among the "bear-foot and antler" crowd). Our interactions with upright (as opposed to walking on all fours) neighbors are limited and paced to fill our days and nights with natural rhythms and sounds. City life, as we knew it, isn’t part of our daily life. This meditation is about how we interpreted what we saw as we strolled about the city or sat watching others go by. What we saw and what it means.
It was Saturday afternoon, and the city streets (where we were) had runners and walkers and bicyclers and strollers enough to fill our very small village many times over. Healthy people, fit, able to walk and talk and carry on telephone conversations, email and texting communications, made the atmosphere vibrate with energy and enthusiasm, creativity and cleverness. Observing the level of activity reminded us of when we were starting out, making our way in the world, and it seemed to unlock some mental closets where we had stored some of that youth, some of that energy.
We’re not ready to go back to that kind of life. We’ve been away from it too long, but perhaps we’ve gotten too comfortable, too much at ease with solitude and stretches of silence, enjoying the darkness of night where there is no sky-glow other than from stars and moon, hearing the sound of birds and bees and frogs and insects rather than horns and sirens and squealing tires. There is a danger here, perhaps: becoming too comfortable with a very low level of stimulation. Being among those whose lives are really just beginning brings awakenings we had nearly forgotten.
Coming back to our quiet zone, our dark nights and unpolluted daytime skies offers a sharp contrast to the life a city generates. As much as we think the young should listen to us, we need to keep that energy flowing back, as well.
Energy comes from energy, not from observation.