Monday, 21 November 2011


I have been reading Helen Luke's, 'Old Age: Journey Into Simplicity'. In her introduction to the book, Barbara Mowat writes:
“Drawing on the masterworks of Homer, Dante, Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot; reading those works with an understanding formed through years of absorbing and reflecting on the insights of Carl Jung; and speaking as a wonderfully conscious individual making the transition herself into old age, Helen Luke teaches us that a point comes in our lives at which we choose how we go into our last years, how we approach our death. The choice, as she describes it, may be painful, requiring ( should we choose to continue to grow old, instead of merely sinking into the ageing process) that we let go of much that has been central to us, even to our inner lives.”

“.... a point comes in our lives.....”? I want to qualify that assertion. I have not, so far, (I am now in my 81st year) experienced a single point: just a gradual process as the evidence of ageing bodies (mine and my contemporaries) accumulates. Furthermore the response required is not, in my experience, different from the response required at any point in the truly human life. Dying to self, letting go and letting God and so on are good at any age and ideally are best developed and practiced long before the onset of old age.

The unavoidable evidence of ageing can be a powerful trigger for some but not for everyone. I heard a wonderful exposition on Saturday by David Runcorn of Moses and the burning bush. He wondered how many burning bushes Moses had missed and painted a hilarious picture of a breathless angel rushing about igniting bushes as Moses meandered by with his sheep leaving a scorched earth trail behind him.

As a footnote, I recall the novelist, C.P. Snow giving the opinion that the ageing process proceeded in a series of drops from one plateau to the next, each plateau giving a false sense of security. Again I can only say, from my own experience, I have not recognised such a process. It seems that we each speak from our own experience and it is unwise to generalise from it too confidently.