“I’m getting older (sigh)” or “I’m resilient!”

Most of us want to live as long as we can.  Many are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to prolong their lives. And even when we aren’t, often our relatives insist we undergo every available procedure to stay alive.  Of the $3 trillion we spend on health care every year in the US, up to 20% is spent in the last year of life.

A resilient person will live a lot longer than a non-resilient person, but like everything else in the universe, we are dispensable components. We play a part in our families, our societies, our ecosystem and then others take our place. If we have lived well, our family, our society, our ecosystem will be more resilient–better able to survive and thrive.  If not, our family, society and ecosystem will decline toward oblivion.

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An ecosystem doesn’t care whether any particular individual survives. In fact, the ecosystem is built on the recycling of all its individuals. When an individual becomes unable to contribute, his place is taken naturally by others. In nature, every being is food for some other species. Your job is to contribute to the resilience of the system. You must help it innovate, maintain complementary diversity, increase its integration with natural systems. When you are ceasing to do that, your value to the larger system ceases.

The great conundrum is that we must strive to survive in order to serve a system which cares not whether we survive. Many of us have lost any allegiance to a purpose higher than prolonging our own lives and achieving our own goals, no matter the cost to the society and ecosystem we are a part of.  They focus on their personal survival and prosperity, their personal resilience.

Those who have lost allegiance to a higher purpose have a hard time when they age.  They often get depressed about the problems growing older can bring. They focus on their own pain and suffering rather than being  joyful at having another day to live, help, create, dream. Resilient people take the latter attitude.

Unless you are old, you can’t be sure you are resilient. Resilient systems last. No matter how flash a new system may appear, it could disappear anytime. Not all resilient people are old, but all long-lasting systems are resilient. Yet resilient systems are always renewing themselves. They are always figuring out new ways to conquer new disturbances.

That attitude is the foundation of resilience.  Without it, you won’t withstand new disturbances, troubles and upheavals. Who knows what new changes will occur and whether you can overcome them? No one on earth.  Yet the resilient take the attitude that we shall overcome.

So we should be glad we are getting older.  It shows we are resilient.

Youth is wasted on the young, but only on some of them. Those who turn out to be resilient often have old souls. And they appreciate older people. Resilient people often don’t seem up to date and modern. They have overcome the addiction to the modern, the fashionable, the popular.  Non-resilient people often see them as old-fashioned, a throwback to olden days, even atavistic.

Getting stuck in a rut is a sure route to lack of resilience.  The rut that young people often get stuck in is the eternal pursuit of the new, the fashionable.  They aren’t stuck on maintaining the old ways; they are stuck in always changing, no matter how well the old ways were working.

Because they got stuck in the modernity treadmill, many young people have never even experienced the systems which worked so well in previous generations. Many don’t know about running free in the woods, climbing trees, building fires, milking cows, hoeing a garden. They don’t know about the peaceful, prosperous years in the 1900’s.

If 20 years is a generation, almost a generation has passed since we gave up the 1900’s. Without knowing the 1900’s at all, people have grown up, accumulated houses and families and knowledge enough to be professionals.

I take pleasure in being stuck a little in the last century. And trying to pass on some of the old truths which modern people don’t want to hear any more.

 

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