Updated: Jan 10, 2022
"Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on, I’ll be mad."
Why does an almost 70 year old man wander off to places he has never been?
Why, indeed didI wander off to s place I have never been?
Short answer... because it is someplace I have never been.
Admittedly, most of my contemporaries are not launching out on romantic adventures. And I do have to say that there is definitely a part of me that would love to settle in somewhere, sitting by a crackling fire, watching trees outside the window dancing in the wind with a cup of something warm (or warming) in my hand for the duration of GP. But that is the minority voice. It is cliche to say, getting old is a choice, and admittedly, I only said that when I was young. But as they also like to say, "This s*%t just got real." So much for the philosophical and theoretical, I have reached an inflection point. Life is not a project or a mission that you have to accomplish. It has no real beginning or end. It has no stated goal, no endgame, no goalposts, fixed or movable. As Winston Churchill once said, "History is one damn thing after another." If old is a choice then what to choose? Truth is, getting old starts long before the body reaches any particular number of solar revolutions. It is baked into decisions and choices made all throughout life. If I sit for hours playing games (especially video games) or watching mainstream "news" or "reality" TV shows (not much difference actually) or subscribe to some critical-thought-discouraging religion, I am sowing the seeds of old age. I am clinging to an imaginary world in a vain attempt to avoid the real one. If I:
Take no risks
Enjoy entertainment more than learning
Avoid love for fear of heartbreak or rejection
Watch sports rather than getting my ass whooped on the field
Always do what I know how to do so I don't look foolish
Avoid uncomfortable circumstances
Wait until I am "good enough"
Choose the easy way or worse, cheat
Then I am creating the inner environment that, later on, will have me knocking on the door of the assisted living facility.
Am I being too harsh? I am allowed to. I am old. I have earned that right. Moreover, it is my job to point the way to those who may still believe that age is a function of time and youth is a gift enjoyed only by those with less of it under their belt. You become old when you lose curiosity, when something inside gives into the inertia of entropy, when safety is the criteria for taking action or not. While it is true that the body changes over time and eventually does succumb to inevitable dissolution (dust to dust as it were) this entropy does not apply automatically to the heart and the mind.
There we have a choice. If you have cultivated curiosity, penetrating inquiry and a willingness to not adapt to creature comforts to the point where they become an imagined necessity, the pull of what we call old age will not have the same degree of authority. It is all up to you. It breaks my heart to look around and see the consumption of stale ideas instead of critical, compassionate skepticism, to see trivial and shallow story regarded as news, celebrity mistaken as importance, slogans offered up for profundity, video games substituted for imagination and selfies for genuine recognition.
There is a universe of experience infinitely vast and infinitely close. Yet so few know it even exists, let alone plumb its depths. It is closer that you can imagine because you are that universe and you can't getting any closer than that. The universe doesn't age. It merely transforms. I can say the same for you and me. And I will. We do not age. We merely change form.
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