Why Grow Old?
I might ask a very impertinent question of you. How old are you? That’s a question that we have grown up with since earliest childhood, and it’s strange too, because age is something that humanity almost instinctively resists. Certainly, millions of dollars are spent every year in the efforts of people to retain beauty and youth. Everyone is interested in how to keep from getting old. Now, we’ve talked about this subject many times, but it always seems to attract a great deal of interest. We have lots of letters and questions and requests about it.
We are coming more and more to realize that life is not actually measured by years chronologically, but by attitudes, by states of mind, by where we are in thought, and that the secret of youthfulness is always in our own keeping. It lies in the viewpoint, the way of looking at life: the ability to let go of the past, to deal intelligently with the present, and to go forward confidently into the future. No person who has a sufficiently fine imagination need ever grow old, because he carries within himself the long looked for “fountain of youth” that Ponce de Leon sought so hopefully and persistently.
Growing old is actually a habit of the human race. It is the result of an erroneous negative thought and bad mental patterns. Every person has within himself the Primal Source of Youthfulness, which he may release, which will continue to flow as long as he frees it from the inexhaustible Fount of Spirit that quickens and makes him alive. Life is a matter of going forward; and those who keep pace with its buoyant stride can never really grow old. You only as old as your doubts and your worries, your ideas and your beliefs, your fears and your despairs. The years are really not all that important, because youth and old age are simply states of mind. Some people are older at thirty than others are at ninety. There was once a prevailing idea that work should be laid aside somewhere in one’s sixties, and that seventy was as far as one could reasonably expect to go. There are many exceptions to this fallacious delusion, numberless witnesses to the fact that youth is of the mind, and not really of the calendar at all, many proofs that listless idleness in retirement is the greatest enemy to life, much greater than work, enthusiastically and intelligently done.
Now, we’re not saying that age is not a reality in terms of the accumulation of years; we are talking about the fact that one can stay young throughout all of his life, regardless of years. Many people look for signs of approaching old age: the inability to adapt oneself to that which is different and modern, the dread of change from the old, the prevailing order of things that one resists terribly. These are always signs of advancing age, because one is, kind of, progressively giving up, loosing his hold, allowing himself to get into an aging consciousness. Only the ability to adapt old ideas to changing conditions acts as a barrier to time, releasing the belief in these allotted three score years and ten, which has become a fixation in the race consciousness. A mind that is kept fresh and vital by a spirit of fervor and enthusiasm and a desire for new adventure has found the secret of eternal youth.
You see, the origin of the old age concept is actually psychological, rather than physical; and eternal youth is within the reach of anyone who cares to make it his goal and is willing to abide by certain Principles. The first requirement is to let go of the outworn past, to look forward into the future with unfailing courage and interested curiosity, to greet each day, as it unfolds, as a new adventure—all the more thrilling, because it is viewed from the perspective of the passing years.
So, the question is, why grow old? Why grow old? Youth is an expression of Life, and Life is eternal. Growing old, even growing old gracefully, is simply out of style anymore. Walter Pitkin [author of “Life Begins at Forty”] once emphasized the idea that life is only beginning at forty, once a birthday dreaded as the doorway to mental and physical decline. What a change has taken place in our world. Forty has come to be not a milestone, but a signboard pointing to richer, happier, fuller responsibilities of living, a time when tempestuous moods and emotions have grown calmer and one is able to see life sanely and to see it whole. Since the world had grown so complex, it requires great ability to know much about it. Until one has reached the age of forty, until then, education and experience are preparatory, building up to the real purpose of life. At forty, one is fortunate to have gained enough knowledge and experience to begin the actual business of living, to just kind of get started.
There are people who have made themselves old at forty by their habits of thought. They are forty years old and dread each succeeding birthday. Birthdays, as far as I am concerned, should never really be celebrated if they cannot carry the meaning that the word implies: days of birth, new birth, rebirth, not looking back to some time a long time ago that’s getting farther and farther away, and thus, one is in a consciousness of aging, but to see the birthday as a day of new birth, new awakening, new beginnings, new enthusiasm, new life, new vitality.
More and more scientists are agreeing that old age is unnecessary, that men and women should be able to renew their youth. There is no principle that limits life, because life is an endless process of growth. We observe frequent evidence of renewal in the natural world, and always from the within outward. The fact that our body cells are continually renewed is a well known fact. We once learned that complete renewal occurs every seven years, the renewal of certain cells in a matter of months. The process of growth is casting off worn out cells and building new ones continuously. So, the question is, why should young cells be replaced by old ones, or healthy ones by deficient ones? Cells are broken up, used, cast off, and replaced. Nature has no rules for making them older and weaker as the years go by. Through ignorance and wrong thinking we grow old according to the race patterns, the habits of human consciousness, states of mind. We grow old because we simply believe we must do so. Nature produces the body cells, and we stamp them with our habits of thought, making them something that nature probably never intended them to be.
It is amazing how little interest mankind has taken in really investigating the actual causes of cell deterioration. What the mind images, the body expresses. If the mind is kept fresh by youthful spirit of courage and adventure, devotion to ideals, interest in new experiences, adaptability to changing conditions, then the owner of the body has found the secret of not only the emotional impulsive factor, but of the organic, as well. Whether our thoughts and beliefs are true or false, the body responds accurately to them. The true idea literally revitalizes the organism by replenishing its worn out cells with fresh new ones. You see, the “alarm clock of aging” need never unwind. It is our business to be so wide awake to the Truth of Life that we shall not even need the first tinkle that heralds its unwinding. After all, why should it be so incredible that a power which can create is just as able to recreate? Life is a perpetual process of tearing down and building up. Potentially, there is always a perfect balance, a building up for every tearing down. But human ignorance and error have interfered with its rhythmic equilibrium.
Science has demonstrated the fact, many times, that thought controls the heart action, and that it may direct and concentrate the circulation of the blood; and yet, making these significant experiments practical has been very slow, indeed. If it is possible to make the mind a definite factor in organic control, it is man’s key to eternal life. Traditional human thoughts and beliefs are the great enemies of this radical new thought that automatically stamp new cells with a negative belief. Wrong thinking continuously binds and limits our creation of our physical body. Our material body tends to deteriorate like any machine; but the difference is that the body has an inherent automatic and practically unlimited power of renewal. It is a self-starting, self-building, self-operative, and self-renewing process. A worn machine must be scrapped, but a worn body can be renewed and rejuvenated. The same power that devitalizes cells through wrong thinking can, most assuredly, revitalize them and build them up again.
The will to live must govern the functions and operations of the body in order to make it resilient and youthful and healthful. Those who desire eternal youth must think health, speak health, live health—must be involved in the consciousness of healing…all the time. The mental attitude must exclude the counting of years as a means of measuring age. Every live cell in the body is so much molten energy continually being molded into shape by your thoughts. What are you thinking? What are your attitudes? What are you brooding on? If you choose to furnish molds of age, weakness, and inefficiency, then these are what you must expect to create in bodily expression. And, on the other hand, if we refuse to think in negative terms such as these, and regard life as something eternal, indestructible, ever unfolding, ever renewing, it should be possible to remain both mentally young and physically fit indefinitely. Changes in the physical organism, supposed to indicate age symptoms, are not causes. The causes are always in the mind. If you grow tired of life, you may be sure the body will let down. If you meet life with eagerness and enthusiasm, the body will respond.
So don’t let the years count! Keep your interest in life! And, if someone ever asks you how old you are, as I impertinently asked you in the beginning, you might respond something like, “I’m as old as God, and I’m as young as the morning.”
© Eric Butterworth