“I want to be a veterinarian. And an astronaut. And a fashion model!”
When we are six, anything seems possible. We dream and we imagine and the world is open to us.
Joseph Campbell talks about one of the most potent rituals he ever attended. In it, you picked five tokens to represent what you valued, and then you were lead through a course. Along the course, there were barriers where you had to sacrifice one of the tokens to move forward. Campbell talks about how people resisted this sacrifice, finding ways to delay, to avoid or to trick at the barriers. He saw this process as analogous to aging, moving through life.
When we are six, anything seems possible. But even by the time we are sixteen, we know that we have to make some hard choices, to decide what we want to hold onto and what we want to let drop.
Aging is the embrace of the finite.
In much metaphysical thinking, as spirit we enter the human world of separation as a way to be forced to make choices and discover what we really value, discover who we really are. This is why the gift of a lifetime following your bliss and slaying the dragon with “Thou shalt” on every scale is becoming who you really are. It is the finite nature of human life that forces us not just to be smitten with infinite possibilities but to become more pure, burning off the external and focusing on the inner life. We are all born as flesh and as we age, that flesh dies and our story grows, and when we are gone, all we leave is story, the essence of who we revealed ourselves to be in this world.
Like the people who Campbell saw go through the ritual of the gates, as humans we find it tempting to try and avoid the challenges of choice and to keep a hold on the scatter of possibilities that we first beheld as children. To resist aging is to resist the embrace of the finite, resist the truth that choices must be made and that in the end those choices define who we are and what we live, what we leave in the world.
Our bodies start to feel more and more limited as they break down, our history creates more and more definition to limit choices, our energy dissipates so that we don’t have enthusiasm and exuberance to feign interest in what we don’t really care about, and we don’t have the capacity to just live in denial, eating the dung of others. Risks seem risker when we are less robust, and when we have a real understanding that life is finite.
For transpeople this can be very hard, because we knew from a very young age that possibilities were denied to us by a heterosexist world that shamed and stigmatized us into behaviours based only on our reproductive biology and not the contents of our hearts. Those young days of possibility weren’t really open to us if we needed to cross the conventional lines of what boys were supposed to do, what girls were supposed to do.
As we age, the masks are dropped, though, and we are caught in the bind of coming out in a time and place where we no longer have the energy to learn and the social context to be tolerated in our wild explorations. That’s a tough place.
But aging is the embrace of the finite. Aging demands that we figure out who we are and what we value as important, then make choices around that knowledge. It demands we stop living the scattered, diffuse outer life and come to a centred, focused inner life.
I wish I could go back and explore my possibilities again without the “Thou Shalt” dragon limiting my field of choice. But in a human life, that’s not possible. Life only moves one way, and that way is towards a reckoning with the finite.
That journey, though, is always a journey of revelation and enlightenment. It is the journey that spirit living a human life always struggles with.
Pick your battles. Don’t spit into the wind. And be boldly and bravely who you know yourself to be, singing the song your creator put in your heart.
Aging reminds us that life is finite. And because it is finite, it is precious. Value it, now.
And be brilliantly you.