May you walk in Beauty
An Ancient Navajo Prayer
May the Beauty we love be what we do
Jellaudin Rumi (1250)
To speak of aging and beauty in the same breath might seem to be hopelessly naive. The physical and mental debility of aging leads only to the grave, and it seems a vicious joke that all our dreams and hopes and efforts should end in the disgraceful and ignoble mire of old age. Moreover, in western countries, the cult of youth marginalizes those of us with white hair. We are certainly not a sought after demographic. A recent advertisement for a job at the United Nations warned that those over 58 need not apply. Many universities are looking for excellent young teachers because the image of the old dried out professor reading from his yellow notes is deeply engrained in the collective imagination. Many of us go through our days experiencing new and mystifying pains, being shocked by the person we see in the mirrors and windows we happen to pass, and either being ignored or patronized by the vigorous young people around us who are going about the important business of life. On this far side of Middle Age, I find Robert Frost’s couplet particularly apt: “Oh Lord, if You forgive my little jokes on Thee, I will forgive Thy great big one on me.” We put on a brave face, but in our heart of hearts, we know the terrifying truth that the game is up.
Or is it?