They come and they go, the are born, they grow, they get old, they die, some say they are reborn, to live again, to age again and to die again. This begs the most obvious and age old question: “why are we here?”
Every once in a while I meet an incredible human, and they remind me that aging is a natural process that only claims our physical body. The spirit is always effervescent if we allow it to be, the soul is only more experienced and our mind can only grow richer if we feed it in the right way. This lady I met this morning, early at sunrise was giggling while doing her morning exercise and very proudly telling my friends and I that she is 85 years old and still feels young and full of energy. She was infectious in her enthusiasm and bright spirit, light as a feather and innocent as a small child. She renewed my hope in life and its beauty and easily added herself to my list of unforgettable people.
Aging is the celebration of us escaping death. Why does it scare us so much? Is the fact that we are nearing death?
photo: old woman in Hanoi
When I started this project I wrongly assumed that a story such as mine with my Lebanon could be told with 29 photographs and 29 small writings. With every passing day I could see that life does not work like that. The stories that came to my mind and married with my photographs each day barely scratched the surface of the immensity that life in Lebanon was to me. Life engraves lines in us, each experience life changing, each event leaving its unique signature on our aging skin. No aging face is designed like any other, in the same way that no life is like another and no fingerprint is the same.
I met this lady in the street while in Beirut, her name is Aida, she could not tell me for sure how old she was and she sold cigarettes for a living. Her lines are evidence to a life that would take ages to tell. Nothing is more humbling than looking at a face like Aida’s.
Getting old: it brings to mind the image of a fan getting turned off and gradually slowing down before coming to a standstill. Movement slows down, worries begin to fade away and importances shift to allow contemplations to take precedence. Maybe that is why a lot of old people choose dogs for companions. Dogs don’t seem to mind the waiting around, the long slow walks or the hours stillness and quiet.
We start our life’s journey here on Earth in such a great rush. We are born thirsty and hungry, desperate for impressions, information, absorbing life around us like a sponge. We are overspilling with incredible energy as children, growing at a miraculous speed, impatiently rushing to the promise of our adulthood. Then we get there, we feel like a mountain climber on top of the world. And as all things on the planet, we begin to go down the slope of life to the harbor of our inevitable forward journey. And on the way to the harbor, we slow down, we become pensive, we worry less, we have more time to think, to contemplate, to doze in the comfort of wistfulness. Behind us life keeps on renewing and we begin to detach ourselves from its excitements and contemplate the next leg of our journey, because no matter what we think, there is a fairness and great kindness in our very design.
photo taken: old man contemplating by the river~ Huang Pu~ Shanghai
I remember being 20 and feeling completely immortal. I always felt that death is a far away journey an the reaper did not have my number and had no plans for me. And then years passed and I started feeling the idea of mortality creeping closer. I wonder what it would feel like being on the last stretch of life here on Earth. Is it a time to look back at what has been done in our lives so far? A time for assessing what still needs to be done? A sense of relief at the end of this journey and in the waiting for the next? I wonder…
photo taken: old lady on her home steps in a Shanghai alley
At a certain point in our lives, our bodies grow to maximum capacity and from that point on, they begin to deteriorate. The only part of the human that continues to evolve is the head, the spirit and soul that drive it, and what lives in it and around it. That is the only place out of which a human can make a breakthrough, isn’t it? Humans evolve through their mental development, their art, their creativity, their revelations, their connections.. and if these are trained correctly and well invested in, then the greatest reward of all, wisdom and human development can occur. Which begs the question, why are we humans so obsessed with the outward looks of our bodies and why do we fear the signs of aging instead of looking inward as we are meant to do when we get older?
Who is free of it? Are you? Isn’t it the most natural thing to be afraid of the unknown? Aging is a sure sign of us moving into that unknown, and that scares us. We are born into a human body, a vehicle that eventually gets worn and expires and that frightens us so much. But isn’t there another part of us that resides in there? And isn’t it that part that deserves more of our investment since it is the only part that can outlive the body? So it begs the question: why do we spend so much time, energy and money on trying to reverse the irreversible while disregarding the part that begs for our attention? How much vanity do we allow ourselves?