Boleh Tahan ~ HOW OLD ARE YOU?
YOUR EDGE?”, said the fierce personnel manager
at the supermarket where I’d gone in search
of a Saturday job while I was in high school. “Edge?”
I repeated, “What do you mean?” “Edge!”
he roared, in his strong regional accent; “How
old are you?!” “Oh, sixteen”, I
hastily offered, realizing that he had meant ‘age’.
“You’re a bright spark, aren’t you?!”
he said sarcastically. Thus began my relationship
with this tyrant, and it didn’t improve over
the year I spent there, working all day for just £1:00.
Thanks, Jacko; I never imagined you would come into
my life again, or that I’d be grateful to you,
but there you are!
It is a common question: “How old are
you?” We usually think nothing about it, and
answer with our bodily age, as if we were the body
only, and nothing else. But are we? The body is a
lump of meat without the mind, consciousness or vivifying
principle to make it function; we are more psychic
than physical, as it is through the mind that we perceive
things; it is through the mind that we live.
But if we are more mind than body, how old
is the mind? We cannot really say how old we are unless
and until we know who we are. And do we know who we
are? Don’t be hasty and say, “Of course
I know”, because if you think about it for a
moment or two, you will realize that you don’t.
Funny, isn’t it? You have lived so many years
but still don’t know who you are. And if you
don’t know who you are, how can you know who
anyone else is? You are much more than a name—a
name which, by the way, was stuck on you by others.
Are you ready to begin your journey of discovery?
This is what it will be if you respond to this question
instead of merely shrugging it off and saying, “Who
cares?”—a journey that goes on and on,
with no perceivable end. But the joy of discovery
as you go will offset any concern about never reaching
the end; what you discover when you discover it, is
an end in itself. Enjoy the trip!
Someone—Paul Lowney—has written:
“No-one owns his own life. Everyone—no
matter how insignificant—has an effect on someone
else, just as a stone sends out ripples when cast
into water. A person whose life doesn’t touch
another’s is a person without a shadow”.
A person without a shadow, doesn’t exist, of
course; every one of us touches others.
But this is just the beginning. Once we discover
this, things really start to open up and become exciting.
Further on, we might find—as someone else; I
forget who—said: “No-one can know everything
about anything”. Why is this? Because one thing
always leads to another, and when we investigate anything,
we find so much involved in it, and so much involved
in that, and so much involved in that, to infinity;
there’s no end. It is like this quotation from
a contemporary dance master, Martha Graham—whoever
she is; I must confess I don’t know, but it
doesn’t matter; what she said makes sense:
“It takes about ten years to produce
a dancer. That’s not intermittent training;
that’s daily training. You go step by step.
In ten years, if you are going to be a dancer at all,
you will have mastered the instrument. You will know
the wonders of the human body, and there is nothing
more wonderful. Next time you look into the mirror,
notice the way the ears rest next to the head; look
at the way the hairline grows; think of the little
bones in your wrists; think of the magic of that foot,
comparatively small, upon which your whole weight
rests. It’s a miracle. And the dance is the
celebration of that miracle.”
Because we are burdened with the need to
earn a living, our area of interest is narrowed down
considerably; we feel jostled and hemmed in by the
cares and worries that spring up like weeds. After
a while, our energies having been expended in trying
to just keep afloat, we forget there are other things
to life than earning a living, supporting a family,
and enjoying ourselves a little, and lapse into a
state of dull acceptance, taking everything for granted.
When this happens, life is virtually over, or—to
put it another way—hasn’t yet begun.
In freeing us from drudgery and insecurity,
the welfare-state has fostered mediocrity and drug-like
dependence in us; we’ve become addicted to a
life of pleasure and ease, and forgotten how to strive
and accomplish for ourselves, to face the difficulties
that life throws at us as challenges, and overcome
them. Having had things so good for so long, we’ve
become bored and restless; nothing holds our attention
If we view life as boring, as something to
be endured, tolerated, put up with, and got over with
as soon as possible, then we will have little interest
or energy, of course. But if we see it as a thing
of possibility, of unfathomed potential—to learn
more of which brings joy—then our energy-level
will increase and may make us feel like shouting from
“Shouting from the roof-tops!?”
you may say. “Are you mad? What is there to
shout about?” You have said it. By not saying
it, you have said it! Your ignorance has revealed
and strengthened it! It’s what you don’t
know that is worth shouting from the roof-tops. And
what is it that your response has demonstrated you
don’t know? Obviously, that you are alive—alive
as a person—with incredible, untapped riches
and resources. If you knew this, you would not say
“Are you mad?” The mad one is not he who
shouts from the rooftops about human potential, but
he who thinks there’s nothing to shout about!
A Norwegian philosopher, Sören Kierkegaard,
wrote: “If I were to wish for anything, I would
not wish for wealth or power but for the passionate
sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young
and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints,
possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling,
what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility?”
We need to be bold and daring, to be able
to say “I don’t know”, and recognize
that we are far from fulfilling ourselves. Don’t
be satisfied with mediocrity! Don’t give up!
There’s so much waiting for you!