So, back from a vacation cruise for the holidays. Lots of chances to just look at the ocean and think. Sometimes that is very therapeutic. Sometimes, it is a challenge. It was also a time celebrate some life milestones, which always create moments to think about time and its’ passing and what it means. I keep hearing that age “is only a number”, and that may be true, but I am not so sure I like the number! And yes, I know, the alternative is not so appealing.
So, maybe is was “b’shert” that I came home to see Sunday’s N.Y. Times (Jan. 4) review section and two op-eds. One entitled “The Liberation of Growing Old” looks at the reality of our aging. The author, Anne Karpf, has written on the issue of growing older and cites studies that show how aging is liberating and is a period of increased happiness. She opines that part of the reason for this may be that “we know it won’t last forever”. She writes of a culture in America that does not venerate aging. Indeed, in a telling section she rails against what she calls “gerontophobia”. “Ageism”, she writes, “has been described as a prejudice against one’s future self. It tells us that age is our defining characteristic and that, as midnight strikes on a milestone birthday, we will become nothing but old–emptied of our passions, abilities and experiences, infused instead with frailty and decline.”
Now this call to liberate one’s self from this self-defeating view of aging also seemed to be imbedded in another op-ed piece in the same paper. From a totally different perspective was the piece by Pico Iyer entitled “Healthy Body, Unhealthy Mind”. A theme of this piece was the need to focus on one’s inner life. That seems to be a major factor in so many boomers as we come to realize our own mortality. Does there come a point when we shift priorities? Does there come a point when we realize that we cannot out-run time? As Karpf concludes: “Age resistance is a futile kind of life resistance: We can’t live outside of time.” Our own tradition speaks to this at length. Sacred aging in Judaism is an aging that reminds us that, as long as we draw breath, we are capable of growth, learning and the “possible”. Perhaps it comes down to taking the “time” every day to be grateful for this life. In this way, our outer and inner life can be merged into am experience of gratitude and, I hope, peace; peace of mind and peace of soul. In any event, may 2015 bring you peace, health and fulfillment.
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.