December 23, 2013


Memory of the Garden at Etten (Ladies of Arles) - Van Gogh (1888)


These are a few of the synonyms I got for the word ''old'' when searching on I believe these words (and ideas) reflect society's view on old age: it is out-of-date, retrograde, used.

To have vs. To be
I recently spent a great deal of time reflecting of what it is and what it means to be old. To ''be'' old.
The use of the verb  ''to be'' suggests that ''old,'' in a person, isn't merely an accessory of one's identity, but at its very core. When you ''have'' something, you can easily change it or replace it, or so it seems. When you ''are'' something, changing is trickier.

Objects vs. People
I don't like how the use of the adjective ''old'' sometimes suggests an objectification of people. Let me explain.
Things get old. In this post-modern world, we buy, consume, and throw away. We are increasingly witnessing the phenomenon of obsolescence, and even planned obsolescence, in which technologies last for a limited time only and must then be replaced by newer, more effective ones.
People aren't like this. People don't become obsolete. There is no such thing as becoming useless because of age. On the contrary, the elderly have an incredible amount of science and wisdom to share.

Body vs. Soul
My real question is, can one really get old? I mean, the body sure gets old, and eventually dies. But can the soul be old? Can one's mind be old? I would say I don't think so.

It is mostly experience that differentiates generations and how they reflect on things and ideas. Experience, and a different historical background. Older people don't necessarily have an ''old'' perception of the world we live in, but one that takes into consideration their past experience.

This short post is by no means exhaustive of my thoughts on the subject. The point I want to get across is that we need to rethink our conception of ''old.'' There need not be an absolute dichotomy between ''old'' and ''new;'' these might just be different stages, degrees or perceptions in the wide spectrum of the human experience.

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