I had an interesting experience this past week that caused me to consider how we dialogue with our age. It’s not the first time, in my book, Humanity at Work: Encouraging Spirit, Achievement and Truth to Flourish in the Workplace (Chapel Hill Press 2008), I wrote on the subject of “conscious aging.” You would think each one of us would want to be conscious while aging. But some folks choose to take a pass on the joys, mysteries, sorrows and wonders that erupt daily- they choose instead to create their own private hell lined with the fears they manifest as their bodies begin to age.
So here is what prompted this note. My wife and I were visiting the Grand Canyon. As any visitor knows there is no superlative that can describe the beauty it deeds to the worldly landscape. As we walked on a trail that traces a path around the canyon’s southern rim, we discovered that the Park Service created a display of rocks that were harvested from the depths of the canyon. But these aren’t ordinary rocks- not that there is anything ordinary about this part of the planet. You see the “youngest” stone on display was slightly over 1 billion years old. Yep; that is billion with a B! The oldest rock displayed is about 1.8 billion years old (I suppose give or take a few million years). As a frame of reference what we would refer to as modern man showed up about 2.5 million years ago. We only discovered fire 500,000 years ago. That’s not even a rounding error in determining the age of the rocks pulled from The Grand Canyon
As we walked the trail I felt compelled to touch each and every specimen. Wouldn’t you? I usually feel as though I’m coursing along at a pretty fair pace through what is now the sixth decade of my time among the living- and it feels great! But there are some days when I feel a little “old”. I don’t want to dramatize this stuff, but regardless of your age don’t you have such encounters with your mortality? The next time it happens I intend to ask myself this question; how do you attach the term old to anyone of us or any living creature for that matter, after touching an object that has existed for over 18 million centuries!
Of course, some would say that rocks are merely inanimate objects and touching them cannot be beneficial. Not so according to Native Americans. Here is what the Lakota holy man John “Fire” Lame Deer believed, “The earth is a living thing, the mountains speak. The trees sing. Lakes can think. Pebbles have a soul, rocks have power.” I cannot speak to the beneficial properties of these objects, but there must be something sacred about anything created so very long ago that retains the beauty and majesty imbued by its maker. A creation that doesn’t appear to age.
Next time you feel as though you’re sliding down the far side of life’s mountain, as if you have already crested the pinnacle of your existence, just remember that there really are mountains, and canyons, whose span of existence make the longest of human lives seem infantile by comparison. We may a lot of things but we aren’t old!
Better still, on days when you don’t feel as young as you once were (no using the word old), go exercise your body and your mind. It will keep you young regardless of your age.