For some of us, the physical changes that accompany ageing are just a part of life met with a shrug of the shoulders. The tick-tock of the clock as the years slide by, a distant yet comforting beat of our lives. The growing laugh-lines or the salt and pepper, gradually growing more the former, are rarely noticed. They are simply one more of the expected changes that go along with life.
For some, however, this shift in time is like the grating of an oversized door opening to places they’d rather not go. Of course, some would cock their heads to the side wondering, what’s the problem? It’s only natural, isn’t it? Well, yes, it is. But maybe that’s it. It is only natural. Perhaps in the end, nature may just play a central role in the dilemma.
We have a troubled relationship with nature. Some insist we’re a part of it and some do not. Some assure us we control nature while others feel otherwise. Therefore, could it be the difficulties we encounter with growing older are tied in part to our distance from nature?
And so, is it possible that since some of us don’t feel tied to nature, we’re not about to follow its rules? Which is to say, many of us aren’t about to grow old “naturally.”
A Part of Nature or Maybe Not?
We definitely have a difficult relationship with nature. We live lives increasingly separated from nature. More and more of us reside in urban areas, distant from the groves, meadows and meandering streams and rivers with which nature graces the landscape.
It’s known that around 4.3 billion people across the world—that’s more than half of us—now reside in an urban area. More often than not, our lives are framed, day in and day out, by a world structured by steel and fiber-glass, buildings perched on even the smallest piece of land. So, the many facets and peculiarities of nature are certainly not a part of our day to day lives.
Yet, many would insist they are indeed a part of nature. And yes, even for those living in the hearts of our largest cities, that potted plant perched on their kitchen ledge may be a signal of their union with nature.
Still, there are those who would insist they are not bound to nature. The question would never arise. And being so distant from nature, it’s finer nuances and subtleties elude them.
But those who feel disconnected from nature also consider it merely yet another facet of life, one needing to be controlled.
Some would point to the rise of Christianity in western society as the point where we diverged from nature. We then rigorously followed the words of the Old Testament. Thus, every Sunday, we were reminded how humans were made in God’s image, granting us dominion over all creatures, great and small.
We then took many things in hand. As a result, we’ve had a significant impact on the environment. One of the most pronounced effects on nature is our role in speeding habitat loss. Our actions often simply destroy a habitat.
When a new housing project is started, trees are removed wholesale. Most likely, countless animals previously lived in those trees or used it for obtaining their food. It doesn’t matter, as we’re in control and reign supreme. We also fragment a habitat. So, the area once used by a creature is no longer valuable in its entirety since a development was placed in the middle.
Another action indicative of our control is linked to our emission of air and water pollutants. Chemical pollutants bioaccumulate, increasing in concentration within the animal’s tissues and then they’re transported throughout the food web.
Plastics can be yet another form of pollutant. Floating in the currents through our watersheds, plastics are often ingested by wildlife, mistaken for food. Sadly, animals eventually die since their stomach is full of material it can neither digest nor break down. Otherwise, the plastic is caught on the animals appendages, thus incapacitating them and leading to their death.
Through these impacts, we play a controlling role in nature. It would seem we possess a relationship with nature that places us at the steering wheel.
Fear of Ageing
In this light, we can turn our attention towards ageing, a process governed largely by nature. Though we may try, ageing is something over which we ultimately have no control.
Initially, we can recognise some truly have a true fear of growing older. Known as gerascophobia, it can affect people of all ages. As an age-related anxiety order, it may involve changing behaviours to impede growth. It’s a serious condition.
As people age, it’s not surprising the fear of death may strengthen. It may be simply because we have loved ones we’ll be leaving. Maybe there’s a loved one for whom the elder is still caring. So, a fear of death is understandable.
But overall, ageing is a component of nature, something many of us seek, with more or less success, to control.
Departure From Youth
All things being equal, as we naturally change with age up to, say, 30, we’re okay. But that’s usually when we begin to show signs of age. We are departing from the world of youth. This also has a significant role to play in our dance with age.
Our difficulty with our increased distance from youth is staunchly connected to our western society. It is a world that worships youth, with many, at all costs, desperate to hold onto the charms of youth.
For millennia, we’ve been steadfast in our search for the fountain of youth. In past centuries, the search for youth has had its place in the manifesti of the most stalwart explorers. In modern times, the story is much the same.
Anti-ageing is a billion-dollar industry. We are presented with non-stop images of youth and vivacity as the pinnacle of life. Youth is the eternal goal, with its rich and voluminous brunette, black, red, and blonde hair, not a grey hair in sight. Don’t forget all those lithe and firm figures.
So, once we reach 29, with 30 looming, for many of us, we’re keen to apply the brakes. That’s when things get a little more tricky.
Tightening the Reigns on Age
This cavalcade of beliefs and ideals thrusting towards us with monumental power forces us to unthinkingly accept these truths regarding the virtues of youth. To be young and to remain so, is the fundamental goal. Given the strength of these pursuits, it’d seem we have but a faint hope of accepting the varied intricacies of nature—to just let it be.
So, like many components of nature we organise, arrange, and manage throughout our lives, many seek to do so with ageing. Like clockwork, once we’ve reached adulthood, ageing takes on a new meaning for some.
According to the wider society, every additional wrinkle or grey hair is met with a fount of lament. If at all possible, it’s quickly then extinguished. In North America, the anti-ageing industry was worth USD 17.44 billion dollars in 2022. And researchers pin it to be at USD 60,95 billion by the end of 2027. It’s astonishing, but it tells us just how many may not want to age “naturally” and let it happen.
Thinking back to our relationship with nature, is it possible that our response to ageing, a natural phenomena, is much the same as our approach to other aspects of nature—no worries, we can control it.
Is there a chance that because we won’t accept our place in nature, we’re resistant to growing old naturally. Nature is something we make an attempt to control and it’s done so to a great extent by virtue of the gargantuan anti-ageing industry.
However, though we try to wrest control of nature and bend the rules of age, we’re never able to do so. We continue to age.
Let It Be
Thus, despite our most strenuous efforts to control nature in this regard, we seem to ultimately fall short. Yes, we are constantly thwarted by our search for the fountain of youth and the boons it would achieve.
We spend an immense amount of time contesting with nature. From the dandelions with which we annually do battle, to those rivers incessantly overflowing to countless other situations. Likewise, we undertake personal battles with nature.
If we were able to push past the dense thicket of ideas foisted on us regarding the virtues of youth and accept the word of nature, what would happen? We would be ageing into nature and willingly accepting our role as a part of time.
We would accept the natural changes that accompany the progression of time. If we truly accepted our place in nature, there would be no need for cosmetic surgery to remove the wrinkles. Why? Because as we age, our skin naturally wrinkles. Similarly, there’d be no need to visit the hair salon in order for our grey hairs to be dyed blonde, brunette or red. Why? Again, because it’s the sort of thing that happens naturally.
Accepting Our Place in Nature
Personally, I’ve always found a quiet poetry and a certain kind of magic in the words “when I’m old and grey.” Although, if we continue to fight the marvels of nature, the anti-ageing industry at our lead, fewer and fewer of us will even be able to utter those words.
No question, ageing is accompanied by an increasing number of aches and pains. To be sure, it has its challenges. Yet, it has its benefits and maybe it’s time to place more attention on those rather than on our looks.
What also comes with those complaints against age is a degree of resoluteness and strength. Anyone who has made it to the age of eighty, when those complaints often arise, can safely know their experiences have equipped them with the ability to contend with whatever challenges they may face. Embodied in those words is a degree of time, knowledge and experience.
Fundamentally, these are the genuine gifts of nature.
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