Saturday, August 21, 2010

Rage Against Age

Compared to my mother who just turned 90, I am a child. In fact, that's how she treats me -- cooks meals for me still and scolds me, oftentimes. But compared to Methuselah or Noah who both nearly clocked a thousand years, I am but a newborn infant. But compared to God, now here is the mystery we must tackle here, I am but a cell. Even if I lived to be two hundred years old, I would still remain as if unfertilized before God.

Unless I rage against age.

This incomprehensible idea of eternity must be the most oppressive idea of all. Consider this: We rejoice at the birth of an infant, almost oblivious to the reality that the baby will grow and eventually die -- from the cradle to the grave, as the saying goes. So, even our rejoicing seems to be a fleeting experience we must savor as it lasts. We love and get lost or crazy in the euphoria of love's embrace, unmindful that even that will give way to myriads of concerns of married and the whole of adult life. We can go on and on with this until the thought of living forever not only seem so unrealistic and so unappealing but also insulting.

Age or the passing of time is something we can rage against and we will still end up hoarse and hoary. At least, we can rage as we age. That could make us strong enough in the lungs to sustain us for a few more days or weeks. What to do?

If we are nothing in the face of the Almighty and Everlasting God what kind of hope can we have aside from our physical existence? If He has allowed us to live a millisecond compared to His unending being, what purpose could there be to this ephemeral taste of glory?

Does God show us real beauty in life we cannot freely behold? Does He withhold a blessing He has given us a foretaste of? Why would He allow us to suffer want when He promises us abundance of joy?

God is the God of glory because His beauty is seen everywhere goodness reigns. He is the God of riches because His wealth supplies the whole Universe. He is the God of compassion because He transforms tears into celebration. He is the God of life because He makes us worship Him in jubilation knowing we will be with Him for eternity.

Why then should we wonder if God knows what He is doing? Of course, God knows what He is doing. But do we know what we should be doing? Has He given us some clear guidelines to attack this problem?

This may sound like a post-mid-life crisis or an extended one, but it is an issue we all must face at any age. In fact, so many young professionals now decide to marry in their lates twenties or early thirties for fear of giving up their youthful pursuits in favor of adulthood. Raging against age through one's career. Look at all the so-called health companies promoting anti-aging products and youth/beauty enhancement procedures: Is this not another way of raging against age? Expensive and illusory but it works, especially for those who make money out of looking beautiful and young, aside from singing and acting, of course, with that expensive mask on.

Aging gracefully comes to mind. But today, it isn't as simple as that. One must keep up with the cost of, well, “grace”. Apart from retaining or developing one's inner worth or character, we are told to look appealling on the outside as well. If you don't care for cosmetic products or surgery, there are always clothes to fit all sizes, shapes, styles and spending abilities. To look glamorous and attractive? Yes, and to look young as well.

No one buys something willingly to look older than one really is. See all the adults wearing faded jeans, sleeveless shirts and minis. No, we do not fault these people. It is their way of raging against the pain of age's onslaught.

It is everyone's right and privilege to rage against age. Those who give in to age with hands and heads down belong to those who have not discovered the creative force given to them by God even before they were born.

Think of it this way: If we were made in the image of God (The Eternal) then what we have within us is a seed that is undying and unaging. When Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to children, there must be something there for the aged as well to benefit from. Technically, we must state here, He was simply telling the listeners that even before adults could enter the spiritual kingdom over which Christ reigns, children are already in it and part of it by virtue of birth, of right, of promise and of design. Hence, we all have been children given the rare privilege of being under God's administration. That is, in our child-status innocence and purity, we all qualified to be under the rule of heaven.

Until we learned to lie, cheat and disobey our parents. As willing sinners -- whether young or old -- we gave up our privileged position which we could only reclaim through faith in Jesus. All the struggles that the Lord, the Apostles and all Gospel teachers go through have to do with leading people back to their childhood status before God. (Churches are full of juvenile delinquents, in a way.) This is God's way of raging against the corruptive effects of age. Why?

The world had been cursed in the beginning. The purity and innocence of the whole of Creation has been subjected to the power of darkness so much so that we have lost touch with the reality of Adam and Eve's better-than-a-child's eternal innocence and purity. That was how they were created; that is how we were brought into this world. Well, almost. We lost it as soon as we caught glimpse of or grasped the world's lust and pride. As easily as our first parents bit off from that poisoned fruit, we gave up our own birthright. Hence, when Adam began sweating it out simply to eat and to survive, he began to age and to warch to the grave. Likewise, we step out of the womb on to a slow but straight trek back to the dusty ground.

As people then taught to become responsible adults, we learned to give up our childhood ways and even our childhood dreams. The doctor who spent much time through med school has responsibilities to society and family to heal and to feed. But I know so many doctors (lawyers, dentists and academicians, as well) in Baguio City who have raged against age by playing and creating music at the same time. And yet, so many others have given up their dreams of making music because they need to pursue "whatever they must".

Then one day, the old woman will rock her chair and look back and regret not having kept her childhood dream. Meanwhile, an old man picks up his guitar and plays a tune while singing with his grandchildren. Many may laugh at Paul Macartney who still sings his silly love songs; but the guy has remained like a child and seems to be enjoying himself, especially as he plays before Obama at the White House. Grandpa still rocking and raging with his music!

Who is old? The one who is 100 years old but thinks like an eager child still or the 25-year-old who must work and has no time to play the piano or who has to wait to retire so she could pursue her dream of singing or of dancing.

To rage against age is to rage agains this worldly age: its ungodly ways, its greedy ways, its corruptive ways, its selfish ways and its proud ways. The child of God who remains godly, caring, sharing and humble does not age. It remains a cell or a seed from God that will suddenly bear abundant eternal fruits by some mysterious force from heaven.

The Way shows us the way to abundant and eternal life: Unless we become children again, we will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Today, then, I resolve to remain a child before God forever. By His power, I will live for Him by overcoming the world's old and dying ways.


(Photo above: Inocencia Marcos Ragay, graceful and rageful at 90. I like to think that her daily habit of reading the news, listening to the radio and raging against the foibles of humanity (not to mention her youngest son) must give her the exercise she needs to retain her vitality for life.)