Friday, April 01, 2016

Old Age 1

I am 73 going on 74. I think that makes me officially old, and I don't entirely enjoy the experience. Right now, my health is good. I feel strong, though I get tired more easily than I used to. But I can see mortality in front of me. The poet Andrew Marvel saw it as a vast desert. I see it as a wall, closing off the future.

The life expectancy for US women is 81. The life expectancy for Minnesota women is 83. That is beginning to look close. I read somewhere years ago that Americans who retire at 65 can expect ten years of good health. Then the illnesses of old age begin to appear. 75 looks really close.

Of course, these are all averages. What about my family? How long-lived were they?

I have already lived longer than my mother did. My father lived to 77. Two of my mother's sisters lived until their late 80s, clear of mind, but with physical problems. Her third sister lived to 93, but had a stroke in her early 80s. Her last ten years were not especially happy.

The three great problems of Buddhism -- the ones that sent the Buddha on his lifelong quest -- are old age, sickness and death. How do we come to terms with these? The Buddha found a solution. The problem, he said, is attachment. If you can learn to let go, you can deal with the inevitable evils of human life. Unfortunately, I am not a Buddhist.

However, I do find that part of aging is coming to terms with attachment. You adjust your plans to reality. I do, anyway. What do I want to do in the near future? How can I enjoy the present?

I still resent that wall. I'm a science fiction writer, after all. I have lived my entire life toward the future.

So this is one problem. I am running out of time. I suspect that a cure for aging will be found, and the rich will enjoy it. But it won't be found in time for me, and I am not rich.


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