A couple of weeks ago, I celebrated a major birthday. Well, it would be more correct to say, I tolerated a major birthday and tried very hard to ignore the number as everyone around me celebrated on my behalf!
I can’t even say that this birthday crept up on me as I have watched the years fly by as my children grew from babies into teenagers, knowing that my life was flying by at the same rate.
However, since this birthday, even though it is only a date and could not possibly have changed anything, I have felt older and oddly melancholic about the thought of growing even older and changing both physically and mentally.
Today my wonderful eldest daughter, a gifted writer whose work I have published previously in this blog, presented me with these words she had written. It is beautiful and insightful and I had to share it.
There is Beauty in Change
by Kathryn Hubbard
There is a certain beauty in growing old with someone. Or even just in growing old, at all. To see their life reflected in their face - in their eyes - in every joyous crease, in every delicate wrinkle, in every absent-minded gesture, in the low click of an arthritis-afflicted finger - reminiscent of a lifetime of use.
To think that they have lived a life - a long life - full of hardships and moments of intense joy, to know that they've lived through it - overcome it - to see a certain hope in the loss of youth, the gain of age.
In the words of Oscar Wilde, "Some things are beautiful because they do not last", and that may be paraphrasing, but the essence of the sentiment remains the same.
I would like to grow old. I would like to see those around me, grow old. I want to see the echoes of youth reflected in their wise, ancient, eyes. To see the shadows of the past in every fold of delicate skin, refracted in the silvered strands of hair.
Theirs is an ageless beauty, not of form but of soul.
And even so, there is a beauty in the form as well. That we can age, can change. Life is only precious because it can be lost.
Youth is only treasured because it is fleeting.
I think perhaps that is the reason that we die. What meaning would life have otherwise? We die so that we can treasure life. We die so that it means something. Otherwise, one day after the next would become some meaningless montage of bleak eternity. And why bother actually living if you live forever? The taste - the desire - for life, to live it, would vanish.
The reverence - the beauty - of life would be lost.
Perhaps, the only way to find true joy - true happiness - is to be faced with the possibility of loss. Homer wrote in 'The Iliad' that the Gods envy us our mortality; they envy the beauty we see in every passing day because we know that it may be our last. True beauty is only so because it is fleeting, because it cannot last.
That is what makes it so utterly beautiful.
The thought that the world changes from one moment to the next, that it will never be the same again, is...beautiful. Herodotus wrote that "Man can never step into the same river twice; for it is not the same river, and he is not the same man".
There is something achingly profound in that simple statement, something that hits close to home.
If it is our experiences that shape us - that change us - then indeed, we will never be the same from even one moment to the next. Every action, every word, every thought, changes who we are. As individuals - and indeed as a race - we are absolutely fluid and mutable.
And the beauty in that leaves me breathless.
This is the experience of humanity as a whole. This is our purpose in life, to see this, to know this, to be this. And every change is documented in the history of the world as it morphs along with us.
It must be exhausting to be eternally the same. I don't think we fully appreciate just how amazing it is that we can change - how freeing. We have no obligations to be the person we were even five seconds ago, and complete capability to become whatever we want to be. It is our own limitations that hold us back.
It always has been.
I believe we suffer because if we did not, we would not know happiness. We wouldn't even know it existed, nor would we treasure it if we did. You cannot find beauty in something that cannot be lost. Love, itself, centers upon that. You do not love something - someone - if you don't fear losing them, if you don't consider the possibility. It is the very essence of taking something for granted.
It is sad when people cannot see the beauty of life itself, that some take it for granted, believe that it will always be there, waiting for them to grab a hold of it.
But life does not wait, it changes. We change.
And that is true beauty.