You Are Only As Old As You Are: The Six Noble Truths of the Zap Philosophy of Aging
The following originally appeared on ZapOracle.
You're only as old as you feel! The problem is that expression got old by the twentieth time I heard it, back in 1973. And now, after hearing it an additional twenty times a week in the ensuing years, I have come to find this particular cliché to be very, very old. In fact, if this cliché were as old as my feelings about it, it would probably be able to remember a time when the Big Bang was a mere twinkle in God's eye. And that's just another way of saying that, based on how I feel, "You're only as old as you feel!" has become an infinitely old cliché.
Being infinitely old must be a pretty depressing phase in the life cycle of a cliché, whose mind consists of a single, unchanging thought form. Especially since this single thought form fearfully cringes from age and seeks to diminish the horror of oldness through the viral propagation of an old mental trick, an arthritic sleight-of-hand, pulling the old switcheroo gimmick of substituting one word for another, in this case "feel" for "old." Winston Smith, of George Orwell's 1984 , was very familiar with the old word-swap trick because every time he showed up for work at the monolithic, windowless Ministry of Truth building he saw, "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength." Only now the Ministry of Truth would have to add, "Old is Feel."
For the age phobic, this is a very convenient little switcheroo because, unlike age, feelings are famously variable and infinitely subjective. So once you can reduce a feared quality into the quivering jello mold of that which is famously variable and infinitely subjective you can then claim the quality to be anything you like. Unlike the one to three digits of your age, if age equals feel, well, who's to say what you are feeling; you can claim you feel like anything. With a bit of word-swap legerdemain, the mortality-denying, self-tricking ego can pretend it has gained variable control, through cliché technology, of the annoying and relentlessly increasing variable known as age.
So now that it is politically incorrect for my age to be a number, now that it is a feeling, what my age is gets a lot more confusing. Apparently my age is based on how I feel, but how I feel is always changing. It has been said that the average adult has a major mood change every ninety minutes, and for the average adolescent it's about every twenty minutes.
Like most people, my feelings are extremely variable. Feed me a triple espresso and a shiny, new digital gadget and for the first fifteen minutes I might feel like a fourteen year old on an ultra sour candy sugar rush. But check back a couple hours later when the espresso has worn off and I have to call tech support in India, and you'll find that my feeling-based age is about 91. Or as I should say, "ninety-one years young." But if I hang up on tech support and smoke some crack, then, for the next five to ten minutes, I'll be a high blood sugar fourteen year old again. Five minutes later, however, the crack starts to fizzle out and my feeling-based age increases by about a decade a minute for the next ten minutes. I could temporarily reverse that trend by smoking more crack, and so forth. The point is that during a typical day like that I have to constantly keep recalculating my age. This means that with every vicissitude of my feelings I have new math homework just to know how old I am, and rather than face an eternity of new math homework, I'd rather just accept my age, an easy to remember two digit number that remains constant for an entire year.
So let's take off the beer goggles of you-create-your-own-reality, New Age wish-fulfillment thinking. You are as old as you are, and if you are reading this, if you know how to read, then you are almost certainly old. Based on my calculations, people are already old, or at least middle-aged, by the time they are eighteen. Eighteen is the age when people go to college and add "the freshman fifteen." And what people really mean by aging, as we'll see later, is something far more serious and tragic than age, what they really mean is:
The diminishment of hotness.
Let's face it, by eighteen you are already over the hill in many important areas. By the age of eighteen your chances of becoming the cute but bratty child star of a TV sitcom start to diminish by about forty-five percent a year. But even if you can accept never being the child star of a sitcom, and are willing to settle for being, say, a world-class gymnast, then you are still forced to realize that unless you already have at least six years of gymnast training under your belt, you are totally past it.
The truth is we are all old. Even if you are a fourteen year old gymnast you are still a mortal/corporeal Version 1.0, and I think for most of us the whole gravity-bound, aging, illness and accident-prone corporeal lifestyle is getting pretty old. And that's why people are lying to themselves when they say they want to be young, because they actually want some thing much more than that.
Let's say, for example, a man is lamenting, "Oh, I wish I was young again," when a genie happens to be walking by. The genie immediately grants his wish and puts him into the body of a random fifteen-year-old. The problem is that around 87% of the fifteen-year-olds in our society are morbidly obese, and only when the wisher finds that he is locked into the body of an obese and pimply fifteen-year-old does he realize the deeper truth: what he really wanted was not merely youth; what he really wanted was hotness.
Case in point, Galadriel, the elf queen of Lothlorien in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Those of us who have read the books, particularly the Simarillion, know that Galadriel is thousands of years old. But you don't catch Galadriel saying defensive things like, "I'm six thousand years young." The reason should be obvious: Her hotness is not in question, therefore her age doesn't matter.
Does anybody say, "If only I were a fruit fly?" Fruit flies are usually only a few hours old, they are younger than almost any of us, but no one cares because of a simple reason: Fruit flies don't look hot; therefore their youth doesn't matter.
This is the point of plastic surgery; it is not merely to look young, but to look hot. That's why you hear about people paying thousands of dollars for liposuction but you never hear about people paying thousands for lipoinjection. (Actually, one easy fix for a wrinkly face would be inject it with fat, causing it to fill out and look more youthful. But that wouldn't be hot, and so nobody will get rich from lipoinjection.)
So now we are starting to get a more authentic sense of one of the pillars of the age issue. It is not about feelings; it is not about youth versus old; it is about hot versus not hot. Now I can formulate the First Noble Truth of my philosophy of aging,
I. For many, aging is not about feelings, not about youth, it is about hotness.
Most people are not yearning to be young in the sense of naïve and inexperienced. They want to continue to have all the inner resources of age, but they would like to have the smooth skin and radiance of youth. They do not want to be a sickly or unattractive youth; they want to be a perfect specimen. And do they want that perfect specimen to go through the aging process? Hell no . .. that was the whole point, to escape aging. An immortal perfect body comes close to satisfying what they want, but if you think about it, immortality goes on for so long. Being in any one body, however perfect, has got to become boring after a while. But if one were an immortal changeling, able to match the body to the occasion, now that starts to look like an interesting prospect.
That's the kind of prospect I'm willing to settle for. I'm not really interested in being young only to have to go through all the ages all over again -enough already. I'm ready for what I feel is my right as a citizen of this rich and abundant universe, which blossomed out of a single point ten orders of magnitude smaller than a gnat's toenail into four times more stars than there are grains of sand on this earth. Is it so unreasonable for me to expect, as someone who has endured all the gross and petty humiliations of corporeality, to become an immortal changeling? In the seminal computer game World of Warcraft, people can switch their embodied forms with mouse clicks. Does World of Reality have less processing power than World of Warcraft? Why should I expect less out of life than I do out of a mere computer game? Isn't it only appropriate for me to want to have a warrior body form with rippling muscles to handle conflict situations, while still being able to slip into a variety of more comfortable bodies for sensual encounters?
I'm not joking here. If you think I am it might be because you have been successfully conditioned by the Babylon Matrix to take the whole corporeality scam completely for granted. If you put aside the fatalistic conditioning of a mortal slave, ordinary common sense tells you that being able to choose the right body for the occasion is as basic an evolutionary progression as being able to choose the right words, facial expressions or clothing for an occasion. It is only what is appropriate. What would be grossly inappropriate for an evolving being would be to get scammed into endlessly repeated corporeal incarnations in which you become stuck in one leaky, aging body after another.
Corporeal incarnation was probably a deal you made. Drunk on nectar and ambrosia, a giddy moment between incarnations, and with the foolish overconfidence of the disincarnate, you signed on for a mortal incarnation, which at the time seemed like the intense thing to do, kind of like a Nineteenth Century adolescent who thought going to war would be an exciting adventure.
But now you know better and might like to renegotiate the deal,
"Can't I just be any age I feel like?"
"Can't I just create my own reality?"
Yes, you can create your own reality, BUT . . .
(You knew there was a huge BUT coming.)
BUT, to really be able to create your own reality you need to be a fully, fully empowered New Age person who has completely internalized the you-create-your-own-reality principle and does not harbor a doubt the size of an organic mustard seed. To get to that kind of state of personal empowerment it's going to take god only knows how many workshops, past-life regressions, and other costly New Age products and services.
But once you've paid for all that, and gotten rid of all doubt, then you really can create your own reality. This may finally explain the unsolved mystery of why there are no middle-aged New Age people. They have learned that they can create their own reality, and so they've recreated their ages and become the Indigo children who have such a precocious knowledge of New Age principles.
But if you can't afford all those New Age products and services, or even if you can, but still harbor doubts, where does that leave you in 2012? If you think mortality is inconvenient, try mortality plus the inconvenient truth of climate warming plus apocalypse plus no ability to create your own reality! If you are not the maître de of your own private reality by 2012, better prepare yourself for being left behind in a world composed of failed New Agers and other clueless mortals unable to self-rapture themselves into new realities.
That sounds harsh, but there is a kind of cosmic justice to it. No one wants to live in a world of immortal changeling losers and doubters. The loser with a thousand faces. And it is so easy to imagine how being an immortal changeling could be abused by the unworthy -- the devil that hath the power to assume a pleasing form, and all that. Ideally, being an immortal changeling should be reserved for only the high New Age elect like myself.
Without such selectivity the New Age would be a disaster. Can you imagine the problems that would be created if you allowed people who don't respect diversity to live in a world of immortal changelings? Can you imagine the burka that an Islamic Fundamentalist would want you to wear if you were an immortal changeling?
So the losers and the doubters will get filtered out automatically. But you know just as well as I do that with the whole light and dark way that things work out, there are going to be immortal changelings who are evil and have a diabolical array of fell powers. Any immortal changeling knows that an epic struggle of light and dark comes with the territory; same as on the Babylon Matrix, only the light and dark will be differently distributed. In the epic world of immortal changelings, dark and light are concentrated into a much smaller number of entities, and this makes things considerably more dramatic and mythological.
I guess at some point it may have become unclear, even to myself, if I was dissing other people's attitudes toward aging, spoofing my own, or pulling back the veil of a mortality obsessed matrix. I've been losing control of my rants recently, and they seem to reveal more of myself and my shadow than I intended. So let me clarify, what I am basically saying is (the Second Noble Truth),
II. Get over it. You are in an aging corporeal body. Take the damn two-digit number (which is not something you can feel your way out of) and get on with it.
But by "on with it" I don't mean to a depressed acceptance of mortality. What I mean by "on with it" is (the Third Noble Truth),
III. Recognize that you are already a shape-shifting interdimensional traveler.
Your aging mortal body is not your true identity, and although the present phase of congealing into one corporeal body is such a convincing matrix, and no doubt a huge inconvenience and hardship, remember that it is only a phase. Your age is probably a two-digit number, and chances are, based on present medical technology, you will probably never have to endure more than two digits worth of age. And if you have any sort of background in math or science, you know that two digit numbers are really small numbers. The whole mortal number you pulled on yourself may stretch out into the scratchy last cut of a black vinyl golden oldie, but even that will probably still be only a two digit number, or at best in the very low one hundreds. Thankfully the mortality number is never a very big one, and once the reset button gets pushed you've got a chance to renegotiate.
Of course, if you are a fundamentalist materialist and a technological futurist, like Ray Kurzweil, then you may have some expectation of having your consciousness downloaded into a quantum computer housed in a titanium alloy exoskeleton with Zeiss Ikon optics and a shape-shifting dermal layer consisting of nanobots able to reconfigure themselves in any way that is consistent with the underlying titanium alloy exoskeleton. In other words, your expectation is the nerdy gadget version of being an immortal changeling. But no matter how many off-planet backups of yourself you have downloaded into quantum computers kept in super-cooled, fully hardened underground bunkers, there is always the possibility of a super wave or galaxy devouring black hole destroying all those backups. This is what Tolkien called premature immortality: the naïve confusion of immortality with being in a single, age-resistant body.
In addition to your aging, mortal/corporeal Version 1.0 body, with its two-digit age, and all its obnoxious limitations and vulnerabilities, you have other bodies, and those other bodies are not as stuck in one matrix as is the flesh and blood body. If death seems too long to wait for a new body then just wait a few hours until you are ready to go to sleep. Once a day most people enter another matrix called the dreamtime, and while there they are in an age-variable, shape-shifting dreambody that can defy gravity and rebound from life-threatening situations with the resilience of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character. There are also the energy bodies that people experience during near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences (of which I have had numerous). These energy bodies may have such enhancements as panoramic vision, orgasmic aliveness and spiritual enlightenment.
Fundamentalist materialists would have us believe that unless we have the luck to live long enough until technology gives us an ability to download ourselves into quantum computers, then we are just eternal losers, a bunch of rapidly deteriorating furless monkeys with a couple of hemispheres of tangled wetware ready to crash into the velvet darkness of eternal unrecoverable data loss the moment our monkey form flatlines. And oh so many things can make a Version 1.0 monkey form flatline: a banana peel on a staircase, another monkey driven car on the freeway...
And even if it hasn't flatlined yet, Version 1.0 is always buggy, and there is no warranty, no tech-support. The best you can hope for (if you can afford about $700 a month) is the privilege of turning your fate over to some caring, giant HMO, and maybe the mortality mechanics that work for the HMO can patch you up for a bit, or maybe they will kill you themselves if you are one of the unlucky hundreds of thousands that each year succumb to an adverse reaction to a combo of pharmaceuticals.
So before I lose control over this rant again, let's boil things down to a few simple truths about aging. Stop trying to pretend that aging is sexy or that it is about personal empowerment, high performance, plus sentimental good feeling, like the fifty-five-year-old model woman with perfect bone structure playing volleyball on the beach with her grandchildren in the Celebrex ad.
Say after me the following affirmations,
"Every day in every way I'm getting older and older."
"Today is the first day of the rest of my ever-diminishing life."
"Mortality sucks, and then you die."
Here now are the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Noble Truths about aging:
IV. Mortality is developmental, and you probably signed on for it because it puts fire under your ass. Most immortal changelings are too stuck in the immortal changeling rut to do anything with their endless lives.
V. Fear of death is about fear of unlived life.
Evaluate everything from the point of view of what you will remember well on your deathbed. Live every day like it could be your last and stop the countdown to apocalypse dates like 2012. The count-down-to-apocalypse game was old when Revelations was written (in the expectation that the freaky events described were going to happen to the Christians of the First-Century AD). Your personal event horizon of death could come at any time and is guaranteed, so stop projecting it toward a collective eschaton; it just binds you deeper into linear time.
VI. Stop falling for the fundamentalist materialist longing for anti-aging medicine and its vain efforts to forever patch up a pro-aging mortal body.
You already have glorified bodies. Death, the mortal emergency, can actually be a liberating emergence of your other bodies, and a chance to more fully recover your real identity as an interdimensional traveler. So stop cringing from the amazing intensity and vulnerability of your corporeal incarnation. Mortality is a once in a lifetime experience. Disembodied entities are always talking about how envious they are of the dynamism of mortal incarnation. Try to remember that however ambivalent you might be about being in a body, it is for a limited time only, and then you may discover that there are other worlds than these...
© 2007, Jonathan Zap, age 49 Revised 2008 Edited by Austin Iredale.
Image by Abode of Chaos, courtesy of Creative Commons license.Tweet