Grow Grey Gracefully
To know how to grow old
Is the master work of wisdom,
And one of the most difficult chapters
In the great art of living.
— Henri Frederic Amiel
The Guru’s instructions to live in tune with Nature and according to the Will of God clearly guide us, in very simple terms, as to the attitude we should have towards ageing. Still so few of us grow old naturally. Most of us put up a fight against Nature, and dye the greying hair / beard to either a rusted look or a jet black colour that it did not have even at sixteen. And, it is being practised on such a large scale that it has become the norm, and any rare one, who does not dye his / her hair is made to feel as the odd one out.
We waste so much time, energy and money, trying to look younger. Ageing is a process which everyone goes through. Do we lack the courage to face and accept reality ? Even if we do succeed in looking a little younger than our actual age, can we alter / improve the functioning of our organs, or deceive Yamaraj, for that matter ? Why the desperation to look young ? Do we have nothing to contribute to the betterment of society, but mere young looks ? To believe in youth is to look backwards; to look forward, we must believe in age.
Some argue that we paint ourselves just as we paint our houses to look better. Should we compare ourselves to inanimate objects ? Well, how would we feel, if the house always refused the colour we wish to give it ? Undoubtedly, we can only be acceptable to the Lord if we understand His Will, and not walk our own way.
“He who understands God’s Will is approved.”
— Guru Granth Sahib, p. 386
“Perform thou the worship of the Master,
Which service is pleasing to the dear Groom.
If thou walk according to thy own will,
Then, the Spouse shall not be pleased with thee.”
— Guru Granth Sahib, p. 440
Let us respect grey hair and not resist growing old, as many are denied the pleasure ! Looking artificially younger can only be compared to objectifying oneself (since we are trying to look attractive to the opposite sex, other than our spouse who knows our age anyway). Why to reduce ourselves to the status of objects, just because we are endowed with the freedom of decision and action by the Almighty. Are we to use this ability only to interfere in His plans ? Do we wish to convey to Him that we know better ? Actually, the mad ad-world convinces us that one’s worth lies in only looking young and seductive. Industrialists accumulate wealth by manufacturing a variety of cosmetics, and so do the models who advertise them. Do we seriously believe that they are our well-wishers ? Why do we get exploited so easily ? Do we have no thinking ability of our own ?
All our dear ones know our age, so how does it matter what strangers think about it ? Further, our certificates, expanding waistlines, sagging skin, stiff joints, potbellies, etc. speak volumes on our age. A healthy body with strength, stamina and suppleness will definitely feel and look good, irrespective of colour of hair. Why do we not accept the changes that accompany age and grow old gracefully ? Snow on the rooftop does not mean there is no fire in the furnace. And, surely we do not believe that our children will love and respect us more if we look younger. On the contrary, we are, directly or indirectly, passing on the values of falsehood. How about showing them the way to true happiness, by stressing on the beauty of the soul as well rather than that of the body alone ?
The Gurus enlightened us about the true worth of human birth, but we find it difficult to break free from the superficial values of youth and looks.
“This human body has come to thy hand.
This is thy chance to meet the Lord of the world.
Other works are of no avail to thee.
Joining the society of saints,
Contemplate over the Name alone.
Make efforts for crossing the dreadful world-ocean.
In the love of worldliness,
The human life is passing in vain.”
— Guru Granth Sahib, p. 12
“Wealth, youth and blossom
Are guests only for four days.
Like the leaves of the water lily
They whither, fade and die away.”
— Guru Granth Sahib, p. 23
When we cannot deny age, no matter what, then why fear the departure of youth ? May be, youth has more muscle power, but the mind becomes maturer and sharper with age. The most famous of men achieved great heights in their respective fields only with age. Let us not insult this age of wisdom and triumphs of the mind by desperately trying to look younger. Let us work on the mind, which achieves greater heights with the passing years !
The value of life lies not in the number of days, but in the use we make of them; a man may live long, yet very little. There are always things to do and values to imbibe, regardless of age. Giving up is the ultimate tragedy. If man has a realistic attitude towards life, he will not mind getting old. We shall pass through this world, but once, so let us concentrate on doing good deeds, which alone will count in the Lord’s court.
“Life is shortening day and night.
O mind, meet the Guru and set right your affairs.”
— Guru Granth Sahib, p. 13
“They are judged according to their deeds
The merits and demerits shall be read
In the presence of the Righteous Judge.
According to their respective deeds,
Some shall be near and some distant from the Lord.”
— Guru Granth Sahib, p. 8
Imagine a world without old people. There would be so much less love, care, patience and comfort. It would be a chaotic place without the wisdom of the aged. So much art is wasted in appreciating the passing beauty of youth. Let us wake up to the genuine and ever-increasing beauty of old age. Let us make the natural look fashionable. Let the old folks feel more worthy and wanted as such, so that we can get rid of the complexes associated with ageing, and lead a more natural, healthy and meaningful life.
“Let me grow lovely, growing old;
So many things do;
Laces and ivory, and gold;
And silks need not be new;
And there is healing in old trees,
Old streets a glamour hold;
Why may not I, as well as these,
Grow lovely, growing old ?”
— Karle Wilson Baker
Ageing is the ascent of the soul towards its union with its source, the Almighty. The body is ultimately consumed, but the soul remains unaffected.
“Tired are the eyes, the ears and the beauteous body.
Age has worn out my sense,
But my love for maya goes not.
O crazy one, you have been blest not with wisdom;
And so you have wasted your life away.
So long as one has life, one must serve one’s God :
For even when the body is no more,
The love of God stays with us,
And we find refuge at the Lord’s Feet.
He, whom the Lord blesses with His Word,
His craving is stilled,
And he realises the Lord’s Will,
And on the chess-board of life,
Throws the dice of his conquered self.”
— Guru Granth Sahib, p. 793
Let us prepare ourselves for the ultimate union. Let us decorate ourselves in a manner that is acceptable to the Lord.
“Wear the ear-rings of contentment,
Make modesty your begging bowl and wallet
And smear yourself with God’s meditation,
Treating it as ashes;
Wear the fear of death as your coat made of patches,
Make chastity, like that of a virgin,
Your path to achieve union
And faith in God as your staff.
Make the brotherhood with all,
The highest sect of yogic order
And deem the conquering of self,
The conquest of the world.”
— Guru Granth Sahib, p.6
Train up a child in the way he should go;
And when he is old, he will not depart from it.
— Proverbs XXII. 6
Time does not change the worth of gold,
Let’s be like the tree which gets better when old.