MUSINGS OF AN APPRENTICE CENTENARIAN?
I still think I am occupying a 40 year-old body: even though my eyesight is no longer anything like 20/20; even though I am getting progressively deafer; even though I find it hard to bend down and tie up my shoelaces; even though after shuffling as fast as I can to catch a tram before it pulls away I need several minutes to get my breath back; even though it takes two days for the pain and stiffness to subside from my limbs and joints after kicking the football with my grandson.
Yes, I am in denial that I am getting old.
Thoughts of old age did not plague me when I turned 69, so why the big deal after turning 70?
I suspect it is all the Bible’s fault.
Well, at least the fault of the King James version that introduced the old English term threescore years and ten. Way back then, the number 20 was referred to as one score, therefore threescore was 60. Add on 10 and you’ve got 70 (just to help out those of you who are arithmetically challenged).
Psalm 90 is said to have been written by Moses.
It states, among other things, The days of our years are threescore years and ten, not necessarily suggesting that come the age of 70 you’re scheduled to shuffle off your mortal coil (to paraphrase Bill Shakespeare), because Moses goes on to say, and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Not exactly sure what Moses was on about here, except it is reasonably clear that 70 years of age isn’t categorically exit stage right time and that life may be stretched out to fourscore years, or 80 years.
I think my mother, who is nearly 94 years old, and her elderly friends in an aged care centre would politely disagree with Moses on that score as well (pun intended).
However, I wonder if my resistance to the notion of turning 70 is based on an age old misunderstanding that threescore and ten years is our usual allotted lifespan on the planet? Maybe at a deep, subliminal level in my mind this old distorted superstition prevails. Add to this everyone’s primal fear of death, even if we consciously deny it, maybe that is where I am coming from.
Be that as it may, according to the King James Bible, Moses (or his ghost writer) goes on to say, So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Now, my take on this (and I have to say I’m no biblical scholar, so please don’t bombard me with accusations of heresy if you think I’m on the wrong track) is something that certainly has been to the forefront of my thoughts for several years now. And it is this: what legacy will I leave behind after I die?
An atheist friend of mine once told me that when you die, your only legacy is your children. Part of you lives in them. Neat, but, somehow, not convincing.
No, I would like to think my legacy could be a lasting, positive influence on my children, my grandchildren and on others as well, through my thoughts, deeds and actions. Specifically, by demonstrating kindness, non-judgment, tolerance and understanding of others, maybe this will teach them to lead a happier and more peaceful life and inspire others by their example as well.
But I am getting a bit ahead of myself, because I am a long way short of consistently demonstrating these admirable qualities. So, there is much for me to do before I can aspire to this level of wisdom and behave accordingly.
Come to think of it, it is unlikely to happen any time soon and, indeed, the process, given my inherent and hard-wired resistance to attitudinal change and self-improvement, might take years, even decades.
So watch this space. It seems likely I can look forward to becoming a centenarian!