‘When the self consciously accepts its role in the process of evolution, life acquires a transcendent meaning.’….Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, The Evolving Self
In the dictionary ‘aging’ is defined as gradual change in the structure of a mature organism that occurs normally over time and increases the probability of death.
The dictionary meaning of ‘evolving’ is to unfold, open out, expand.
As a significant number of people inhabiting our planet approach their advanced chronological years, there is more and more conversation on aging, what it means, and its seemingly inevitable impact. It strikes me that amongst all this discussion there is an opportunity. A new conversation can positively impact how we think about ourselves, engage with others, and contribute in our world at every age and stage of existence. When we talk about things differently, they inevitably show up newly, giving us a chance to review and revise out-of-date constructs. The ‘aging’ discussion gives us exactly this kind of opportunity. What would happen if we took on the idea of ‘evolving’ versus ‘aging’? What would we bring to our cultures and communities if we held ourselves responsible for evolving for ourselves, each other, and our world?
In early life moving from one expression to another, from one chapter to the next we engage in creating and changing. We rarely, if ever question these natural transitions and we embrace the experience, activities and learning they afford us. We age from the moment we take birth and we delight in the forward steps we take. In the innocence of youth and the energy of our emerging adulthood, we celebrate new ideas and the commitment and actions required to see them through. Our North American culture teaches us to imagine our future and to follow a path to its fruition. We promote slogans in support of can-do attitudes and we are critical of anything that suggests giving up. Every individual is a symbol of our freedom and our potential. In the first three or four decades of human existence, we are bombarded with development and application of what we have to offer.
Then, culturally speaking, it seems something happens. We hit some magic number that has been mysteriously deemed the digit and we talk about ‘aging’. My point here is not resistance to maturing. Rather, it is promotion and commitment to ‘evolving’ as a place from which to live. It is in support of giving value to the wisdom that comes with living. Perhaps many of the ancient texts and writers of long ago had it right. Their premise was that it takes ‘three score years and ten’ to accumulate enough knowledge and experience to really understand and contribute to life. Three score years and ten–That’s seventy. I am not at that certain age but this makes sense to me from the perspective of ‘evolving’. In fact, I aspire to it. What a complete and utter joy to anticipate that as we accumulate years, we evolve as individuals. With this context, we are truly on an amazing journey. It is a perspective that gifts us everyday. This idea can carry us elegantly from the development and application of youth to the fulfillment of maturity.
Evolving versus Aging seems right and rich for our lives. Aging implies dying. Evolving is alive. Aging conjures up completion and endings. Evolving inspires beginnings and embraces the idea of transitioning from one expression to another. It anticipates and delights at the surprise of what is next. Aging has a sense of exclusivity and singularity about it. The energy of evolving is inclusive. It encompasses the self, others, and the world.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, evolving is a responsibility. It asks of us and does not allow us to sit back and retreat from life. There is no retirement in evolving. There is invitation to continual growth, sustained living, exploration and discovery from here to eternity. I can live with that!
What do you choose: aging or evolving? How does your choice have you live and be alive?