How old we really are

The great English poet John Milton was spending a few days with Galileo Galilei in Florence. The author of Paradise Lost was almost blind and only his splendid memories kept him alive. One of Galileo’s disciples asked him one day, “Master, how old are you?”
The old man’s face lit while he replied, “Well, at the most, about seven or ten... because you would not think, young man, that I posses the years that I have lived.”
This is the ideal attitude towards life. “We are what we are not,” Hegel said. To live the moment, the right here and the right now, is the radical advice of the wise men in all important traditions of humanity.
Illumination never comes from the outside, but it ignites like an awakening when one realizes the authentic reality. Tomorrow is a hypothesis, not a reality, over which it would be insane to base our existence. Yesterday is over, and we have assimilated it by making it ours, or else we will be carried away by any wind like an uprooted plant.
Each stage of life has its own richness. It is precise to be coherent by following nature’s suggestions; to maintain an equilibrium, to seek harmony and to aspire for the serenity that would let us be ourselves.
That is the key of identity, which allows us to be what we are and lets others, at the same time, recognize us in the way we are. It is a process, never a conquest. It is an experience that shows us the different and even contradicting elements with which our personality is shaped. If we occupy ourselves in managing our contradictions, we will keep away the disintegrating schizophrenia that threatens us. Things are the way they are, the way they are being. Everything else is foolish.
From there comes the importance of enjoying our own knowledge, which makes us respect others. Not like the object of our love or of our responsibility, but like the subject that departs for our encounter, in order to start a journey with us, together.
It is precise to then realize that enjoying common goods opens horizons of plenitude, virtue and beauty. Everyone is authentic, and autentikós is the one who has authority over someone whom he promotes.
It is a waste of time to miss the past in a sterile nostalgia while a feeling of absence encourages us to keep going, sharing and enjoying each moment in our existence, without tormenting ourselves over a future that does not exist, a future that we make each moment. Like time, and even like the space that defines itself by its content. True elegance shines in the fact that the container should not mean more than the flower inside.
And after that, nothing. If there were something, we would welcome Socrates’ reasoning, “following the path of virtue has been worth it.” And if there’s nothing, living with coherence and plenitude compensates me even more.
Osho says that the good thing about being an elderly person is that you are too old to set a bad example and you can start to give good advice. It is true that inside any old man there is a youngster asking himself what has happened. We talk about disoriented youngsters, but not of bitter old men who feel that their lives are not what they could have been. They feel deceived. Nobody taught them how to love life, how to love themselves, how to assume the only purpose of existence: to be happy.
To be happy is to be oneself, to be able to do things because one feels like it, not because of an order or due to the objective of reaching merits for an afterlife. To postpone happiness to dominate us is blackmailing. Some people have turned obedience into a virtue. For that who dominates, a good population is a flock that eats without making noise.
A rebellion of the elderly who suffer their solitude as the preface of death is necessary. It is never too late to become mature without confusing growing old, which is a matter of the body, with the maturity that implies growing inside and enjoying life. Wrinkles are hereditary. Fathers receive them from their sons. To discover that we are drops of water in an ocean of silence is to transform existence into a celebration. It is to discover the universe in the mist.
There is no greater provocation than to be ourselves, to dare to be, to disagree, to enjoy and to blend with the universe in harmony. The wise man accepts reality imposing over it his seal: in order to do what he wants he has to want what he does. Because nothing dies, everything changes its form. Existence knows nothing about age, it knows about fructification. We have what we are looking for, we have to wake up.
Maturity means that we are at home. Maturity is conscience. Old is worn out. It is still time to move to another train.

José Carlos Gª Fajardo
Translated by Carlos Miguélez

This article was published in the Center of Collaborations for Solidarity (CCS) on March 14, 2005