For me, the beauty of aging lies in the very reality Mr. Brown seems most to fear.

As we age, those external supports upon which we have relied to give us a sense of identity begin to be stripped away. We can no longer perform as well as we once did.

The better our performance has been in our earlier years, the more difficult it is likely to be for us to navigate this painful transition. This is why Jesus said,

Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.(Matthew 19:23)

To be “rich” has nothing necessarily to do with money. To be “rich” is to be able to convince myself that I know how to make life work effectively and that my performance in the external world gives genuine lasting meaning to my life. The richer I am, the more difficult it is for me to see through this illusion. Hence Jesus also said,

Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.(Luke 6:20)

Again, this has nothing necessarily to do with material poverty. The “poor” as Jesus uses the term here are those who know that they cannot make the external circumstances of life work in their favour. They lack the ability to find satisfaction, contentment, or fulfillment in the external realities of their lives. They are not able to fool themselves with the illusion that their “success” in the external world makes them better people. They have been defeated in the world of good, better, best and so resign more easily from the race as it becomes increasingly difficult to compete.

The key to this lies in something else Jesus is reported to have said, when he told his disciples,

the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21 American Standard Version)

The only hope of a secure lasting sense of identity is the knowledge that there resides within us a realm that is unchanging, permanent and reliable.

While Mr. Brown hints at some kind of inner life, it is not clear that he puts much faith in this realm.

On October 6 he tells us,

For five hours I lay awake in my bed, quivering with worry about work, cancer, finances, deadlines, and what, if anything, was left of my soul. 259

Unfortunately, he gives no further indication of what he means by the word “soul.” But he may clarify his understanding of the “inner life” when on March 10 he describes feeling jealous of his wife’s relationship with a work colleague. Mr. Brown writes,

at least I’m showing some signs of an inner life! Jealous at sixty: who knew it could be a point of pride? 40

I suppose he takes his jealousy about his wife’s relationship as a sign that he is developing a deeper attachment to this woman he has been married to for twenty-five years. But this is a pale facsimile of the possibility Jesus described as finding that “the kingdom of God is within you.” This awareness requires opening to a whole new realm of consciousness.

Again Mr. Brown gives a slight nod in this direction. But his awareness of “an entirely different consciousness” does not go far.

When you get there, the question is what you do with your aging. Do you treat it simply as evidence of your decay and failure? That’s the common reaction. But maybe it is an opening as well, a small tunnel to a different window of perception. Dealing with the really old (as opposed to those merely starting the trip, as I am) is like dealing with an entirely different consciousness. 54,55

What is the “entirely different consciousness” to which Mr. Brown alludes? How is this “entirely different consciousness” to be nurtured?

For me, everything hinges on this question of “an entirely different consciousness.” If such a consciousness exists, it is the locus of meaning, purpose, and true identity. It is the only thing worth finding.