‘The Voyage of Life: Old Age’ – Thomas Cole, 1842 – WikiArt
Well, at some point in our lives, we may start to make a rapid calculation. It may dawn on us that if we had counted on this body and mind to represent us right through the end of life, well… let’s be blunt on this: that’s certainly not our best investment. Old age will make it clear that, after a certain time, if we wait long enough, everything begins to go wrong with our bodies — and so with our minds. We-our body are losing it. New pains arise. Strength diminishes. Memory capacity fades. And disease is lurking. There are threats accumulating, to say the least. We have to come to terms with this plain fact of existence: we will never go back to where we were. We cannot keep holding on to our body, continue having faith in it. This constant hoping for a better body, or a healthier mind, has to end, and this is now. In a way, it really is something to laugh about — a sort of cosmic joke. How could we have been so naïve? This simple and inescapable fact shows — if we needed that kind of confirmation — that this body and mind is not the place for a healthy sense of being. We need to find a way out of this faulty understanding.
We find health in our innermost being. That is the answer. And the body is not this being. It doesn’t represent it. It is not its temple. The body exists but it is not being. Only being has the right and capacity to be. The body is at best a distant vassal. A tool. It is not the home of our being, but rather, it finds its home in being. It rests there. It can borrow its qualities. It can make Being its beloved teacher, if it is wise and humble enough to espouse Being’s extraordinary traits. Then the body and its companion as mind might feel enlarged. They might find their true essence as infinity and eternity. They might acquire a soft and gentle making — less heaviness. And the body-mind will be lit with a strange transparency. It will slowly give up its hard matter-like making in favour of a more airy essence. It might surrender itself slowly while still being alive. Then the natural flaws of its ending will have very little meaning — not something to be afraid of. For its death has already been achieved in love — its true essence. Then its apparent shortcomings and loss will be found to be the supreme gain of life itself. We enter a new kingdom, where death can never be death. It is simply the extinction of everything that wasn’t truly ours in the first place. It is a gentle clarification, and the revelation of our essence. “You may die, my dear body, you may fail and disappear, with your companion-mind, but I will meet you on the burning ground and see you rise again as ‘I’”. This is the meaning of old age and death. This is the gift of our apparent failures. To be raised and revealed as essence. See… we won’t lose it.
Text by Alain Joly
Painting by Thomas Cole (1801-1848)
– Thomas Cole (Wikipedia)
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