Life is full of change. Ever-changing, never still. Change is the only constant. Youth comes and goes; beauty and pleasure are transitory. The sun, nature, matter – all are in flux. Nothing lasts, not even sorrow.
However, this fact escapes attention when we are young or even in middle age. In youth, one feels it shall last forever, that old age is for others. In middle age, we still cling on to the belief that somehow, we shall be able to stall, delay or cope with old age.
Youth is the age of unbridled energy, of foolishness, courage, of dreams, hopes and desires. It is sometimes callous, careless, but always confident. It knows no bounds in mind and body and is willing to take risks. It is vigorous and vital.
Youth is fearless – the time to enjoy without thought of consequences. It is the age of breaking barriers and beliefs, of questioning the meaning of life and the existence of God. It is not the age to ponder over the future, at least not as far as old age. As Pablo Picasso said: “Youth has no age”.
After infancy and puberty come adolescence. It’s an in-between stage of trying to find a place to stand and get counted. It’s a little awkward, slippery, lonely, always confusing.
At this age, one doesn’t know who you are, or what you want to be, but it is tempting to rebel. The adolescent tries to fill the emptiness with validation from friends and victories at school or playground.
He or she is sculpting an identity for themselves. He or she is growing, but asking “growing to go where?”.
Then comes middle-age. The zeal of youth gets tempered with commitments, compulsions and responsibilities, blunting the edge of recklessness.
“Maturity is when your world opens up, and you realise that you are not the centre of it”
At this age, a person begins to contemplate the future. He plans, invests and saves. His concerns now go beyond self and encompass a family. He becomes part of a whole.
It may also be the age of regrets – of not having pursued some passions. It’s a time of review and acceptance, of defining and settling down in a comfort zone.
Sometimes, the famed “mid-life crisis” hits a person. He begins to see and fear the impending old age and takes a leap to realign his or her life. He may change course: shift career options or ditch a partner.
Midlife crisis may also make the person reflect and sad about the course of his or her life. It may suddenly look all meaningless. Thankfully, this stage is usually short-lived, and the person stabilises to continue his trudging on the path of growing up or growing old.
And then comes old age. Marked by falling health, frailty of body but not necessary of the spirit.
This is coupled with hardening of beliefs, an inflexibility of mind. It’s the age when the individual has gained a wealth of knowledge and experience, with a mature outlook and measured response.
It’s literally the opposite of youth – wisdom versus folly. It’s also an age when some turn to spirituality (or religion) in a more ardent way. Little things matter and bring overwhelming joy – a garden, a grandchild, a call from an old friend, a reunion of mates.
Old age is inevitable. So is death. Our journey begins at birth and ends with death. While births are celebrated, death is mourned.
Life is like a bubble of foam – here now, now gone. Man is reared with affection and care, but with a sudden stop, fizzles into nothingness. Death is the end of all, the final stop.
We are all was born with a terminal disease.