On Aging and Mortality

Sometimes I wish I were a deer for the sheer wonder of its speed or a beetle, small, hard to see, and with a shell that protects my soft guts from harm. But most days, I wish I were any animal, blissfully unaware that they will weaken and die one day, living as they do in each present moment.

Like most of us, I suppose, I simply pretend that aging is not happening to me, just to others. This self-delusion I accomplish by keeping the lights off in my bathroom when I shower or shave. Also, it helps to spend all my time with people 30 years older than I am so that I am relatively youthful in my 59th year. And, of course, I only choose fat, ill doctors.

When it does occur to me that I am aging, I quite like to pretend that “everything is just fine.”

Not “FINE” like the tempting worldview of a favorite character like “Ruth” in a Louise Penny novel, but rather blissed-out with rose-colored glasses, a Pink Gin, or both.

In this pretend land in which I am blind to changes in my body and mind, I imagine everyone ages gently, gracefully, in a rocking chair. I see, with perfect vision, the masses of adoring family and clergy, checking on me hourly as they bring me tea and meals on trays. I pretend my muscles are still strong-like-bull, and my walking stability is baryshniokovian. Then one day, with a still sharp mind and powerful, taught body, I pretend I will be sung to sleep by island owls, simply “passing away” in my sleep during a dream about white light in my soft, clean bed surrounded by everyone I love who, of course, never moved away and who all live in our private family compound.

Without the survival tools of many amazing animals, the human being is soft and poison-less but has evolved only two superpowers: a brain and body-chemicals that inspire human connection.

Animals wander, but humans cluster – we support each other. In the past 200,000 years of our human development, we learned that being ousted from community meant death.

I have learned to have tremendous compassion on my younger self that chose the church so as to feel less alone.  Raised by wonderful people who should never have been parents, I found life terrifying.  So like someone who chooses a gang, or the army, or a cult for group-protection and container-laws of conduct, I chose God and the Church, only to be ousted by it in the Diocese of Colorado where the episcopacy rules like the Russian Tzars of old and weaponizes clergy against each other as a strategy of control.

Now that I have had some distance from bishop-bullying, I can see that we were born to live our own lives and that so to, we were designed to blow our own noses rather than crawl to an altar and ask God or Jesus to hold the Kleenex and tell us to blow hard through our noses. As we age, Jesus does not change our diapers when we are incontinent.  Jesus does not place a cold cloth on us when feverish.  Nor do clergy do these things. We do them.  And we do them for each other.

Gone are the days of worshipping the Sun.  Gone are the days of worshipping the king or the Tzar.  Gone are the days of worshipping the Queen on her throne in her big ring and tall hat or the Bishop on her throne in her big ring and tall hat.  It is time for humanity to both acknowledge whatever higher power created this gorgeous, painful life, while also ending our feeble attempts to construct a divinity and that divinity’s clergy, so that we feel taken care of.  We are not taken care of by divinity.  In my personal experience, I find that we are loved by it, created by it and sometimes even nudged and comforted by it, but in the end, we must learn to blow our own noses, and never more so than as we age into very real fragility from which nobody, not even God, rescues us.

If less people would spend a morning going to church, and instead spend a morning visiting someone sick or sad and even help them, the world would be a better place.  But the clergy and bishops will never suggest this because their income depends on us paying for the cult we pretend will save us, change our adult diapers, hold the bowl as we vomit up medicines or care for us by holding the handkerchief when we blow our noses, spiritually, emotionally or physically.

We are, at our best, not lined up in pews, bowing to clergy.  We are at our best interwoven like threads on a weaver’s loom, helping each other. We are here for those whose aging or illness process takes daily, sometimes hourly, and occasionally heroic courage in this very real and sometimes frightening life.

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