Why do we fear aging?

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jan 21, 2011
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From the stormy waves of being born, growing old, sickness and dying, from the ocean of suffering may I free all beings.

Why do we fear wrinkles? I’m 36, and have a few now. Whenever I give a shiite, which thankfully isn’t often, I think of Steve McQueen, looking handsomer as he grew older:

Why do we dye our hair? Why do we fear balding?

Vanity, of course. But what is vanity, and what purpose does it serve?

On the positive end, vanity (as well as a tight back) is what keeps me exercising—climbing, or going to yoga, and bicycling to and fro meetings and meals.

On the negative end, we seem to wrap our self-esteem up with our youthful looks. Why do we think young people look better? I know plenty of beautiful old people. I don’t fear death—I fear living a life that doesn’t add up to anything.

Many Buddhists say this after every meal, or meditation session, or meeting:

By this merit may all attain peace, may it defeat the enemy: wrongdoing.

From the stormy waves of being born, growing old, sickness and dying

Grom the ocean of suffering may I free all beings.

It’s a nice thing to keep in mind: no one gets out of life, alive. Live for the benefit of others. Put down the moisturizer: sit down on the meditation cushion, and dedicate yourself to a wonderful world in terrible need.

Who do you know, or know of, who grew or has grown more beautiful with age?

Obama image: Gawker.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


25 Responses to “Why do we fear aging?”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Waylon Lewis, Jack Daw and Jerry O'Donnell, Red Fox. Red Fox said: Why do we fear aging? http://bit.ly/gLXLLy […]

  2. Amar says:

    Michael Stipe grows more beautiful with each passing day.

  3. thom says:

    Steve McQueen died of Cancer when he was 50 he never got to be truly old he died 20 years before the average male human being in the later half of the XXth century

  4. Great post, Waylon, young man 🙂 Society drums anti-aging into our heads. It's an effort to block the messages. And yes, as a male, you can embrace aging a bit easier. Society says men are more handsome as they age. In fact, I'm yearning for my husband's hair to gray but I don't think it will happen. As I cover my own grays! It's irrational, isn't it?

    My own ramblings on aging here on elephant–> http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/11/still-sort… xoxo

  5. YesuDas says:

    For me, the fear of aging has to do with facing the fact that I'm going to die without having set the world on fire–the fear of, as Whitman put it, an old man "who has lived without purpose, and feels it with bitterness worse than gall." My challenge is less about not letting the world define beauty than about not letting it define success.

  6. Alice2112 says:

    "Every age can be enchanting, provided you live within it." Brigitte Bardot

  7. Waylon Lewis says:

    Point taken. I just always think of him as a young hunk who became hunkier as he grew older.

    In any case, whenever we die, it's how thoroughly did we live life while we had it—any of us as they say in Buddhism can die at any instant, "life is like a bubble," it's precious, make use of it. ~ Waylon

  8. Waylon Lewis says:

    McGee Great thoughts, Waylon! Super like! (especially as I face an onslaught of wrinkles I'm not emotionally prepared for! lol Just learning to accept it all….)

  9. Juliana says:

    I don't believe that you're not afraid of dying. Maybe you're just not aware of it, but I'm pretty certain we all are.

  10. Joe Mohr says:

    Waylon, Barack is going gray due to his love of the earth, not because he's aging… http://joemohrtoons.com/2011/01/20/hank-d-and-the… 🙂

  11. Waylon Lewis says:

    I'm afraid of dying before my time. But when my time comes, I'll mostly be heartbroken to be leaving such a precious wonderful life behind. ~ Waylon

  12. jon says:

    I can barely remember my age when asked, let alone be worried about the numeric value of it. I know it concerns many people, but I believe it's not about age, it's about how time has slipped by. Age is just the symptom.

  13. AMO says:

    I get more beautiful as I get older. I was a cute girl, but am a beautiful middle aged woman. I expect that trend will continue and not the least because I grow inside as I age, and because I practice yoga…

  14. I feel grateful to know many people, in their 50's, 60's, 70's who are radiant and thriving…who are more vital and happy and inhabiting their bodies and their lives NOW more than ever before. Vanity shmanity. Don't believe the hype I say. Our adolescent, youth addicted culture needs to get over itself and grow up. Come ALIVE! Zenjoy the Mystery. Serve Humanity.
    It is the quality, presence and attention of our living, loving and dying that makes for true youthfulness, true beauty, and maybe even for eternal life. I am 40. I have never felt more beautiful and in the heart of my soul evolution. I love the laugh lines on my face, I honor these imprints of my living fully ALIVE, in praise, joy, grief and presence. The golden carrot of self image seems such a toxic mimick to the essence of what life is really for…ain't no substitute for the real thing. Thanks for bringing this to light Waylon. As usual, you rock the bhakti. G

  15. Charlotte says:

    I think we fear aging in this culture because we are so identified with the body. We seem to believe that as the body goes, so goes the mind and spirit. I think this is why as a culture we do not value the experience and wisdom of older people the same way other cultures do. In the mid-1990s a cat I'd lived with for many years grew very old before she passed. The way she moved through the process taught me so much about aging gracefully. As her body became smaller and more frail, her loving spirit grew bigger and bigger. Her dignity never waned. The process seemed completely natural. She was never told that aging was a disease, as we humans are taught, and so it simply was not a disease for her.

  16. Linda says:

    Paul Newman and his wife Joan; the Dalai Lama; Mandela; HHKhyentse Rinpoche–in that forward order–somehow their goodness radiated or still radiates out to everyone.

  17. […] degree was all she needed to assure her future, or so she thought. In her day, there was no other choice. Photo: Gregg […]

  18. […] to keep on keepin’ on past the one year mark, they didn’t even show the signs of aging that they had been genetically mutated to acquire at the accelerated rate. The exercise proved to […]

  19. […] and dying…not to mention getting sick from time to time. So let’s at least enjoy it and make it look good along the way. elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create […]

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  21. Cara says:

    I sure did read the article, and I still stand by what I said. And yes, I did read the other article as well. That other lady looks great IMO – she's not that old either. At 36, you are too young to be saying anything about true aging. Try writing about this again when you're 60 and up. Best of luck along the way.

  22. […] Inevitable. Gray hair? So be it. So put down the fear-of-death and enjoy the present moment—it’ll keep you young, […]

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