Identity and getting older

By J. Keuskamp – Josina van Schaik, Netherlands

The journey of life is a magical event that goes through successive stages, with each stage having a different identity formation. Some of these happen automatically, and are dependent on individual genetic features or our gender. Shakespeare portrayed an aspect of this in his Seven Ages of Man, which describes a journey from infant to old age. Each of these stages pre-programmes new growth into the next stage, going through melt-down portals, such as puberty, or mid-life or menopause.

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All of this suggests that these have been given as vehicles and tools in the template of human life, to allow each person to become the creator of one’s own self-chosen, forged and nurtured identities that evolve and change in chameleonlike fashion, as a kaleidoscope of opportunity. Some identities, such as gender, remain with us from birth till death; others grow, some decay or wither. While we form these identities, build character and charisma to play our roles in life, we create options by gathering more skills to harness new life experiences.

Inside this it tasks us with the art and challenge of keeping fluid and open, to allow us to build a life on top of our necessary daily routines, a life that is always tuned to the future, searching for what is new, what else, allowing space for hidden, dormant and latent capabilities and connections that lie seeded in the blueprint of each person, waiting to be liberated.

In the first part of life we form identities that we use to establish families, build a career, engage in sports, and so on. But what happens as we get older when we no longer carry the torch of bodily youth? What do the elderly identify with? Many people view aging as a withering, not an attractive period of life, not a stage to be looked forward to. Topaz spoke with elders from different countries about identity and aging, and their responses paint a very different picture, one that creates a more enlightened and bright image of what old age may become, especially if you manage to create a meaningful life beyond the restraints and demands of society and economics, and set out to form identities that are natural to the purposes of life.

In the ebb and flow of life, old age can be likened to the ebbing time, ebbing into another mode of being. When you stand on the shore and watch the ebbing tide, it is retreating from your perspective, but that water is going somewhere else. Yes, the body is subject to diminishment, yet the life that lives inside it gathers ripening wisdom and has the capacity to keep evolving. The journey of life from conception to death is like the growth of a plant. First the seed quickens, then the stem appears, and eventually the flower is produced, and it is the flower that then produces more seed. That flower is like the ebbing time in life, everything is in support to that time.

There is a saying that the spirit never grows old. The esprit and joie-de-vivre that Topaz met in older people who are on a spiritual development path marvellously confirms this. It bears witness that life is a growing opportunity, it is a recognition and settlement for the young that life is meant to be exciting and elevating all the way and offers a glimpse and glow of how life may be in the flowering of things after outward identities have fallen away. It also shows how this is different for each person, no two people are the same, we are each individually motivated and make decisions alone, thus each life experience builds a crystal formation that’s uniquely identifi able and irreplaceable.

On the following pages you will find some interviews with older people from different countries in Europe and in Israel.

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