Dear readers, do not be alarmed at the depiction, above – the last fortnight has not been as traumatic as my updated photo may indicate. I am simply facing up to the reality of …well, my reality.
After years of sideward glances and raised eyebrows from my younger colleagues, as they observed the growing gap between my column portrait and the ageing man they shared the office with, I have had to step out from my cocoon of illusion and accept the fact that I am not the person I once was.
Our youthful Production Manager has long been encouraging me – possibly excessively – to publicly reveal my true identity, usually by pointing out that the last photo was taken with technology no longer available!
So, unable to ignore the southerly migration and resettlement program my hair has undertaken, I have now begun the challenging task of embracing my mortality.
It is a battle as ancient as humankind, as we have grappled with the inevitability of ageing and death. In the fifth century BC, Greek historian Herodotus mentions a fountain containing a special kind of water in the land of the Macrobians which was believed to contribute to their longevity.
Since then myths, books and movies have referred to the search or existence of a place or formula that will provide some form of life extension, even immortality, and science has recently entered the discussion.
In 1955 Dr James Lovelock was able to reanimate rats that had been frozen. By 1962 Michigan physics teacher Robert Ettinger wrote a book “The Prospect of Immortality”, proposing that a person could be frozen immediately after death and preserved until technology had advanced enough to reverse their condition.
The concept became known as Cryonics and in 1967, psychology professor Dr James Bedford became the first person preserved in such a state.
He is still frozen today and as of 2013 has been joined by approximately 270 others, many with their pets.
Science has yet to make the advances required to safely defrost Dr Bedford, but my own self-inflicted state of cryogenics – photographically preserving myself in time – had me wondering how many other ways I avoid the reality of my life stage.
In a sense, each time I allow my mind to wander to the past I am trying to freeze myself in time.
Not that there is a problem with reliving memories, but if I allow myself to stay there as a way of avoiding my present situation, I am not living as God intended me to.
If I allow myself to dwell on past hurts, glories, regrets, loves or missed opportunities, then I am not embracing the moment I am in now and this can become an obstacle in moving forward.
This does not mean we should succumb to the worldly thinking of only living for the moment – “Just do it”- without thought for future consequences, but how, as Christians, are we called to approach life?
In his book, “Be a Man!” US Catholic priest, Fr Larry Richards begins the first chapter with the words, “You are going to die!” He is adamant that this reality should always be at the forefront of our mind.
We need to live each moment with the understanding that our physical bodies are only temporary, he says, and will one day cease to exist.
He does not write this to incite morbid fear, but to remind us to be acutely aware that how we live our lives on earth will determine where our immortal souls will spend eternity.
Fr Larry believes that once this concept becomes firmly entrenched in our psyche we will then take our relationship with God into account in every decision we make.
Hopefully our primary goal in life will be to get to know Him more intimately and everything we do will be filtered through this understanding.
Fr Larry is adamant that the more we accept our bodily mortality in the context of our spiritual immortality, the more freedom we will have to live our earthly life to the full – because we will spend it seeking and discovering the loving and merciful heart of God.
However, if we allow our earthly lives to be anchored solely to this world, we are, in a sense, placing ourselves in a state of spiritual hibernation.
And if we choose to live in this condition we will never discover our true identity as God’s beloved daughters and sons and of the eternal and glorious plan He has for each one of us.