Is Age Just A Number?
Age as a western concept is defined as a period of human life measured by years from birth, usually marked by a certain stage or degree of mental or physical development and involving legal responsibility. Like the concept of time, age is a system of man-made chronology that allows us to anchor ourselves in a shared reality. We all agree what constitutes an hour or a stage of development— youth, adolescence, maturity, old age.
But not everyone thinks of age in the same way. For some scientists and eastern philosophers, age doesn’t begin at the time of birth. We are all made up of the same atoms that formed shortly after the Big Bang. Each one of us have a history that began many millennia ago. Essentially, we are of immeasurable age. Similarly, for Buddhists, age is not valued by numbers. Our living age is viewed within the context of our connection to all things.
Age reflects a complex dynamic between our physical, psychological, and spiritual experiences enfolded within our perception of them. Thus, our “true age” is defined by the interaction between mind, body and soul within the context of the history we are born into and live through. From this point of view every clocked hour or each stage of life is uniquely experienced and perceived through each of our individual filters. How I experience my age as I turn 68 this month has little in common with my next-door neighbor of the same age or with anyone else for that matter.
All of the contributors in Issue 15, titled AGE(ism), examine the meaning of age in all its complex psychological, social and spiritual complexities. Some express their ideas in words, others through images. Some are philosophical in their approach, using a wide-angle lens to view age in its widest context. Some are deeply personal in their approach to the subject, expressing how they experience themselves at different moments of time, like snapshots of their lives. Still, others warp time by bringing icons from another age into the present, melting one era into another.
Together, the artists and writers presented here turn the concept of age on its head, challenging the notion of age as a fixed concept. Is it just a number?