I’ve asked a lot of people how old they would be if they really had a choice. In a recent essay entitled Complaint and the Blind Men,
Laurence Platt, who writes from his experience of Werner Erhard’s work,
wrote about the idea of choice as a creative act as opposed to a
conclusion based on some analytical reasoning. The message is that
happiness is the result of choosing ‘what is’, what some disciplines
call ‘profound acceptance’ or ‘surrender’.
aren’t many areas of life that are as basic and unalterable as our age.
We are however old we are—the rest of it is just whatever socially
constructed meaning we add to that simple fact. In my informal surveys,
most most teenagers would like to be older and most older people would
like to be younger (while still maintaining what they’ve learned). A
surprising few want to be just the age they are.
This got me to thinking what would the ‘conversation’ in society be
if everyone was choosing to be the age they are? For one thing, no one
would ever need to explain, defend or apologize for being a certain age
or have to use their age to justify anything. We wouldn’t hear the
young saying, “I know I am only a kid, but…” or an elder saying “I may
sound like an old fogy, but…” or “I am older than you are, so you
should listen…”. People would just pretty much express whatever they
had to say and respect or trust the listener to do with it what they
It also occurs to me that if ‘age just is’ then we would be relating
more to people based on who they are, rather than on how old they are
and whatever stereotypes we associate with age. To choose to “be one’s
age” doesn’t mean behaving any particular way, but to be content in
one’s own skin — with or without wrinkles or gray hair. Acceptance of
and choosing one’s age would eliminate denial and the foolishness and
tragedy that can sometimes come with it. Ageism would be eliminated,
since it would no longer be a distinction that made any difference. Age
itself would become a big “So what?”.
One more thing I see when we do this is that we can have a different
relationship with the future. Whatever our vision for the future might
be, it can be an opening for action and inspiration—without regard to
the fact that we are also ‘getting older’. Choosing age means living in
the present, ‘being here now’, smelling the roses and at the end of the
day (or our lives) having the last day be as full and rich with
possibility as the first.
I’ve been talking about embracing age as we grow older for a long
time. I just wanted to clarify that by ‘embracing’, I really mean