Aging stimulates people to grow taller. That seems contrary to the physical reality of osteoporotic scoliosis, or the stooping over that often befalls the skeletal integrity of age.
However, there is a different type of stature that grows with age. There is an elevation of spirit that occurs when one looks around and sees everyone is younger. Children are driving cars, political leaders need adult supervision, professional athletes are spoiled teens, entertainers don’t act like adults, successful entrepreneurs are kids, and elder statesmen are not elderly. This takeover by youths makes the rest of us realize we are closer to death than they.
This newfound altitude of years is not an exercise in superior attitude. Instead, it is a portending of those life-after-death stories of survivors where their spirits seek the highest corner of the room. Age escalation is a growth of insight rather than an actual moving of a physical yardstick.
There is a loftier awareness with time. Things below begin to shrink in size and importance. Perhaps we are finally learning that “we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff; and everything is small stuff.” The material objects of this world become more removed from our desires. At this new point of view, we discover that gold, silver and jewels just hold us down. Fancy cars or expensive clothes don’t let us rise above ourselves.
Feeling the height advantage of lifetimes also uplifts the thoughts to how everyone is more the same than different. Friends, foreigners, family and foes from a higher distance appear and act alike. There is a biological fraternity and a natural sorority between everyone who inhabits this earth. We can see far more clearly when we are above all the pettiness that comes with position, possessions or power.
Being overhead and eyeing downward permits a new vision of the earth itself. Human construction of hard concrete and black asphalt covers the earth like a blanket. Looking perceptively from this new position of age makes these necessities of modern cities seem suffocating and more than a bit boring.
Looking from above is not the pejorative looking down. Instead by being elevated, another individual’s blemishes are harder to distinguish. This better perspective reveals all who walk the earth are imperfect. Many acts of thoughtlessness are not intended to be malicious but are due to inexperience or ignorance.
As the maturing process puts us up closer to heaven, we can search around and see better those of our brothers and sisters who may be in need. With all theses life experiences hovering overhead, we could lift burdens off of a few shoulders. Peeking over the distractions of daily life permits a glimpse into someone’s troubled heart like the roof of the building is taken off.
Being in a virtual skybox spying the spectacle, humanity is a humorous and beautiful show to watch. People are funny. We do silly things. People are talented and creative. Being above our fellow beings gives a better sight of the uniqueness of each of us. We can see the art better and hear the music more clearly.
There is a sort of solitude when the hustles and bustles are below. One does not have to age out of sight to notice that there is a calming with being older and wiser. We don’t have to impress others; we don’t have to be right all the time; we don’t have to pretend. We are above all of that. That brings us the peace of the ages.
Toddlers who live close to the ground only see knees and bugs. Self-absorbed teens only notice their reflections in the mirror. Young adults are busy living their lives, building their careers and keeping their gaze straight ahead.
Getting older than the busy majority of the human world, we float above it all.
So as we age, look forward to the new height; just don’t hit your head on the ceiling.
Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a practicing pediatrician for 30 years and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah. He can be reached at [email protected].