Sobering Forces of Age And Faith

I don’t feel I am old enough to call myself old. But I’m not that young either. Being somewhere in between, I have always insisted — until recently at least — that I can be on either side of the block (depending on my mood, what role I am expected to play, and what situations I find myself in).

But the accumulated numbers never lie. With each added number, I have gained “something”; and if it was some kind of weight, I must have become somewhat overweight and less agile.

Perhaps age-weight relationship is not the right metaphor in this case. Being overweight has scarcely anything to do with age. There are probably as many overweight young people as there are older ones. But older people are known to have slower metabolism and are less agile physically; therefore, they are more prone to becoming overweight.

What I had meant to say was that with age and experiences, come the burden of maturity — a state of being in which emotional development has more or less reached its peak, become more stable, and attitude become more careful and rigid.

Unlike young people who are carefree and can afford to be careless, older (more mature) people are often burdened with insight-gained and attitude-shaping experiences and learning (the so-called knowledge or wisdom, if you like) that they have less latitude to be carefree and careless. They are also most probably more concerned about what is considered to be socially and culturally acceptable behaviour relevant to their age and role, and their own time-limit — their mortality. Whether we like it or not, our worldly sojourn is numbered in days, and the more numbers we accrue the closer we are to the finish line. All these added together is a sobering force that make older people realise they can’t afford to be as carefree and careless as when they were young.

For those who are religious, God-believing, and adhere to some sort of faith in the afterlife, the finish line in this world means the beginning of another and eternal life in which their conduct in the previous one is to be accounted for. Those who behaved badly will receive their punishment; those who used their time virtuously — to do good deeds — will receive their rewards. For them, being virtuous, therefore, is a kind of preparation for the next life. For older people (who have probably not done enough good when they were younger), the remaining time before the approaching finish line is the time to catch up with the things they were lacking in their youth.

Even for those who are not religious in the above sense, the atheists who do not believe in God and the afterlife, being virtuous is — for some at least — a way of ensuring that they will be remembered favourably by their family and friends, and of leaving behind a graceful legacy for the humanity at large, when they are gone. Being meaningful after all is what we humans are seeking and aspiring for in life.


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