Friday, March 27, 2009

Lessons from the Grasshoper: How Not to be Boring as You Age

As I get older, I find that many succumb to patterns of living that are not conducive to having your youth renewed as the eagles (Psalm 103:5). I am guilty of all of not aging wisely, but let me give a few words to the wise.

1. Minimize talk about one's declining health. Yes, we need sympathy and advise as this mortal coil starts to uncoil in unpleasant and sometimes frightening ways. That is granted. However, there is nothing more boring and annoying than someone who fixates on his or her health to the exclusion of other things, especially things related to other people.

2. Being thankful for "the good old days" is fine. God has blessed you in days of yore. But remember Ecclesiastes 7:4 as well. "Do not say , 'Why were the old days better than these?' For it is not wise to ask such questions as." Yes, the yesteryear of thinner bodies, better memories, smaller prostates, and larger possibilities were wonderful and bountiful, but we press on to tasks, blessings, and challenges ahead--including the inestimable glory of fulfilled life with God and his chosen saints unending.

3. Associate with the younger souls. Listen to them; hang out with them; discern their vision for the Kingdom. Savor their idealism, however naive, however refreshing.

4. Savor and ponder your "grasshopperness." Ecclesiastes vouchsafes the most poignant and moving account of aging in the history of world literature in chapter 12.

1 Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them"—
2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain;
3 when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim;
4 when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when people rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint;
5 when people are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags itself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then people go to their eternal home and mourners go about the streets. verses 1-5.

The grasshopper (one of my aliases ) moves more slowly, experiencing life at a reduced rate. Think of the jazz saxophonist (I cannot remember his name) who confessed that when he was young, he played a bevy of breezy notes--a dazzling display of dexterity. Wow, impressive it was. Yet, as he got older, he got wiser, and played fewer notes, but with more information packed into them (this is Wynton Marsalis's description of the playing of the older Louis Armstrong), with more soul, with more restraint that opens up dimensions of aesthetics unreached by the plethora of running runs delivered at breakneck speed. Slower can be better. Leave the race; join the sagacious recline.

5. Cash in your chips of age. As we age, we earn some respect and log some miles. I can say that I have been studying apologetics for over thirty years. If said humbly, this adds ethos and pathos to your logos. Be an elder, a mentor, a gray hair who does dye his hair and pretend otherwise. As the incomparable King James puts it:

Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.--Lev. 19:32.

As the Preacher said, "There is a time for every purpose under heaven." There is a time to get older, slower, more feeble. It has its unique strengths and opportunities. Savor them for the glory of God, the Ancient of Days.


Jenn said...

Very wise and practical words!

Southern Dreaming said...

Excellent post!

Anonymous said...

Hanging with the young can indeed be helpful, better yet is hanging with the young at heart and body, irrespective of chronological age. I find playing tennis with 80yr olds, who can "clean my clock," incredibly encouraging. It gives me hope that in another 20 years I might be able to play as well as they do.