There is a very fascinating article in the January-February issue of the Atlantic. Noah Hawley wrote on “The Myth of the Frontier Won’t Die” which posited the American myth of the reluctant hero. The frontier myth is part of our society, and it remains embedded in so many parts of our culture, from films to politics.
Reading the piece got me to thinking not of the vast frontier of our country but of a more internal idea of the frontier of the mind. Likewise, a current National Geographic article looks at the issue of extending the aging process. So, I began to consider how these pieces may relate to us as we get older. The frontier of our own mind is not something we read or think about a lot. But, let me suggest that it may have a lot to say about how we look at our own aging.
Research is reminding us that one of the challenges of aging is to keep our brain active. I think this goes beyond doing crossword puzzles. I think what this may mean is having the desire and ability to teach our brain new things, to experience new ideas or events; all of which may keep the creative juices of life flowing. The frontier of the American West may be closed, but the frontier of our own mind and soul is never closed; it is always open to new experiences, new ideas, new relationships. This is, or may be, the difference between existing and living.
One of the challenges of longevity, should we be blessed with it, is how to navigate this tension. By this stage of life most of us have figured out how to exist. How many of us have continued to “live”? I agree, this is not always an easy choice. There are, for so many of us, so many circumstances that inhibit our desires to live: from social status, economic realities, family commitments and more. Yet even within each of these situations, there may be opportunities to expand our own horizons.
So, consider this issue as you examine your own situation. What things would I like to do, within reason and ability, that can expand the frontier of self and soul? The possibility of the “new” is always with us. Can we take that leap?
Rabbi Richard F Address
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.