The title of this blog is the formula to cope with Old Age.
The other day while sipping my pint of beer, on my green padded stool, and old chap climbed up on the stool next to me and said:
“Isn’t it great to get old? I can give my opinion on things and nobody will pay attention or I can give advice that nobody will follow. Invisibility, that’s Old Age.”
“You’re growing old in a good mood,” I said, smiling, “My name is Dave.”
“Mine,” answered the old fella, “ is NOT.”
I was taken aback for a few seconds.
“Well, my friend, if you can’t grow old gracefully, do it anyway you can. Cantankerous is good.”
The old man laughed.
“My name is Noah.”
We shook hands.
“I take it you’re not enjoying old age.”
“Oh, it’s great, each day that passes makes me feel two days older!”
“Hey Noah, you’re a comic and a poet, your feet show it, they’re Longfellows.”
We both laughed.
“Talking about feet, mine hurt even before I get out of bed.”
“That reminds me of an old adage: You know you’re getting old when almost everything hurts, and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work!”
After a few more minutes of banter, we exchanged ages.
It turned out we were both 80!
“Noah, do you find joking about old age helps you cope?”
“Yes, Dave, it does. A couple of years ago I went through an Aging Existential Crisis and seeing the comedy in life helped me out of it.”
“What do you mean by an aging existential crisis?” I said, very seriously.
“Well Dave, it is the moment when I started questioning the foundations of my life; whether my life had any meaning, purpose, or value. I started a program of introspection.”
“So, Noah, what did you start thinking about?”
Noah started laughing.
“When I started my introspection, someone asked me if I’m having as much fun as I used to. I replied, “Look, I’m 80 years old, nothing is as much fun as it used to be.”
“True,” I said, smiling.
“But seriously, I thought about the positives of old age: having spare time, wisdom, tranquility, maturing, and immersing myself in hobbies. Also, I thought about the negatives: loneliness, worries, illness, and death. I started to reminisce about the past and I would wonder how I will cope with the advancing years.”
We both ordered another beer.
“I enjoy living in the past. It’s cheaper!” I said, hoping to put a smile on Noah’s face.
Noah laughed and then abruptly stopped. He had a far away look in his eyes.
“Dave, I’m at the point in my life that I wonder: What it was all about? The idea of having meaning comes to mind. I’ve struggled all of my life to achieve goals and make something of myself, but that only makes sense if those achievements will be permanent in some way. What do you think?”
“I’m afraid your achievements won’t be permanent. Even if you wrote a best selling piece of literature that was read years after your death, it would eventually vanish. If there is to be any meaning to what we do, we have to find it WITHIN our own lives.”
“I’ve worked to earn money to support myself and my family. I eat because I’m hungry. I sleep because I’m tired. I read for info and pleasure. I go for walks because it makes me feel good. I help people when I can. But these things don’t seem enough somehow…”
“My friend, all those things we do WITHIN life, none of those things explain the point of your life as a WHOLE.”
“So, you’re implying that from the outside, it wouldn’t matter if I had never existed!”
“Keep your shirt on. One way your life could have a larger meaning is if you somehow changed the world for the better, but most of us don’t accomplish that.”
We both sipped our beer and pondered.
“I just thought of something, Noah. Why isn’t it all right for our lives to be POINTLESS? Why worry whether or not the WHOLE is meaningless?”
“But Dave, I do care about what my WHOLE stood for!” said Noah, very seriously.
“I think that’s the problem, we take ourselves too seriously. We want to matter to ourselves so badly, and if we see pointlessness in our lives, we are dissatisfied and the wind is taken out of our sails.”
Noah smiled and said: “Perhaps we just have to put up with life being ridiculous, meaningless and absurd.”
“We should both go back to the beginning of our conversation when we were laughing because that reduces stress, combats depression and increases resilience.”
“That’s right Dave, we must remember that a lot of life is funny and then laugh at ourselves.”
“A good laugh heals a lot of meaninglessness,” I said, smiling.
“When you’re laughing, not even absurdity can stand,” said Noah, laughing so hard he had to take a deep breath.
“In conclusion, I will leave you with this, Noah:
AT OUR AGE, TAKE OFF YOUR CLOTHES AND WALK IN FRONT OF A MIRROR. I GUARANTEE YOU WILL LAUGH YOUR HEAD OFF!”
Also published on Medium.