The Coachella Valley gets a lot of top-flight entertainers during high season. Not long ago, I saw a doo-wop show of rock and roll artists from the fifties and sixties. Rating the show, I’d give it a solid C. It only rated a C because two of the four acts should have retired ten or twenty years ago. Their grasp of the music had long since slipped away along with their tired voices.
Instead of resting on their well-deserved laurels, these aging rockers were still clinging to the sad assumption that audiences would revel in their act and not recognize their many shortcomings. Unfortunately the audience was as old as the performers and not very forgiving of their failed effort at still rocking it in their eighties. Most of us felt we hadn’t gotten what we paid for.
That got me to thinking about old age and the four stages we all passed through to get there. Four stages roughly calibrated to benchmark some of life’s milestones and recognize the unmarked passages one slips through while here on earth.
0 – 25 years of age
Most of us are trying to figure it all out and get an education at the same time. We learn, we love and we’re making babies. Then reality sets in and we go to work, figurative and literally. It’s one great big learning process and some of us never stop learning.
25- 50 years of age
We think we’re getting it together then reality sets in at work, in marriage and child rearing makes it stressful, wonderful and mainly a continuing lesson in life.
50 – 75 years of age
Some of us end up playing catch-up with our health, relationships, and world experiences. We come to realize that in the long term ‘Health is Wealth.’ We’d better watch our whiskey and donuts if we want to stick around a little longer.
Now it gets more interesting. We’re facing our own mortality. We’ve made it this far but we’re on that sometimes subtle, gradual downhill slide. This can be the toughest stage because unlike some of our friends, loved ones and associates, we got this far and a lot of them didn’t. Now it’s time to reflect on how we got here and what to do next. The recognition that health is everything becomes even more pronounced at this stage.
Some folks think of aging as simply an inexorable decline that ends in death. And our fear of death has become almost pathological. Along with this apathy is the dread of decline. Our bodies are slowing down and are often trailed by a tired mind. Some would argue that it’s inevitable and settled back in their easy chair.
But life is movement, either physically or mentally. The secret is to keep moving, keep busy, be active and do something, do anything. Ideally, it should be something worthwhile for yourself, for others, for whatever motivates you in the first place.
There is also that nagging question some of us can’t ignore; Potential. Did we or can we still reach our potential, no matter what it might be? Honestly, I think any attempt at ‘trying’ is success in the making. One argument is that we are all ultimately responsible for our own success. That’s an exercise that starts between the ears but must face our own individual reality first.
Everyone faces their own mortality differently. I’d like to believe that a life’s worth of experiences can and should fuel a hunger for more. A vision quest for improvement and a desire to make a difference if only in one’s own mind.
Then again, that’s where it all started in the first place.