Sunday, June 05, 2005

The changing ratio of "maintenance" to the total of life's activities as one ages

A conversation among those in the post 60s decade (and even more in later decades) will frequently turn to matters of health and the challenges of maintaining good health. Even in a small group, there will typically be someone who has struggled – or is struggling - with cancer, bad eyesight, arthritis and other maladies. Other topics may include major surgeries, hospital stays, assisted living options and the challenges of a complex, costly heath care system whose providers often seem indifferent and inhumane. Such conversations rarely occur among the 18 -21 year olds who congregate in my apartment for Sunday night dinners and study breaks.

As our bodies age, the balance between producing output (work and pleasure) and maintenance (staying healthy and alive) shifts. Most young people take the reliable functioning of the biological-physical-psychic complex system that is the human body for granted. Those who have lived a few more years know, from friendships and personal experience, that this is not the case. The end point of this process is the intensive care patient for whom mere survival is the sole preoccupation. And then, in due course, we all die.

The following is an excerpt from a book Gems of Buddhist Wisdom (1983;1996) from which I have quoted, before.

Death is an inevitable process of this world. This is the one thing that is certain in the universe, …the most realistic view of all the realisms. For does not death consume everything? It does. The role of death is to make every human being aware of his or her destiny; that however high he or she may be placed, the end is all the same, either in a coffin or reduced to a handful of ashes. Should we then be in sack cloth to mourn the life that has turned into ashes? No this is not the purpose of life nor of death. The process of birth is a continuing process until we become perfect.

1 Comments:

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