Rediscovering My Fountain of Youth

Rediscovering My Fountain of Youth

“Youth is wasted on the young.”

That quote, often attributed to playwright George Bernard Shaw among others, may on the surface appear paradoxical. However, to me its meaning is clear. When we are young and in our physical prime, both the slate of options for physical activity and the predicted impact of the effort exerted, are at their peak. What’s missing is the prudence necessary to choose how to harness our potential to ensure its maximization. That wisdom comes with age.

ALS has reinforced Shaw’s words for me. While I was not dictionary “young” when diagnosed, I was youthful in terms of my nonchalance to somber matters such as subsistence, mortality, and the passage of time. Upon learning of my fate, I immediately became psychologically older. My preceding vitality has long since “wasted” away, becoming a foggy souvenir. My challenge is to not allow my own hypothesized corollary to the aforementioned adage to become a reality. To avoid letting the wisdom that accompanies aging be wasted on the wise-aged.

As the successive laps around the sun accumulate, we reach a point in our lives when we become aware of how the length of each year seemingly shrinks. Our perception of the passage of time alters; the years appear to pass more rapidly; the seasons, birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmases seem to arrive closer together. Time seems to accelerate and we become aware of the rapidly dwindling timeframe we have left. Toss a terminal condition into the mix, and the effect is multiplied exponentially. A “wise” person acknowledges and accepts this temporal nonlinearity phenomenon.

I don’t want to accept it, at least not fully. Instead, I’d like to, whenever possible, follow the advice of Paul Simon, as espoused in “The 59th Street Bridge Song”: “Slow down, you move too fast. You got to make the morning last.”

Of course, I recognize the importance of squeezing the juice from life while I still have the chance, but not at breakneck speed. I want to take the time to savor as many of its precious drops that I can. I realize that may appear counterintuitive given my upended hourglass unless I can somehow invert the slope of my relative time continuum. To facilitate that aspiration, I borrow a trait, or two, from the toolbox of the truly young. Neil Young philosophized that, “You can’t be 20 on Sugar Mountain,” but I’ve fashioned a fake ID which I use liberally.

I am often struck by the childlike — approaching infantile — reliance that I have on the kindness and care of others for sustenance, hygiene, and comfort. One day that awareness prompted an early memory to rush to the forefront of my mind. Back in the third grade, much like Forrest Gump, “for no particular reason,” I spent the entirety of a recess lying on my back in the grass, with my eyes closed. The vivid richness of the experience impressed me anew, some 45 years later. I recalled exhibiting selective hearing. To my right, I could hear my classmates playing kickball and afterward could regurgitate an accurate play-by-play. On my left, I identified seven different species of birds and sensed the activities of nearby insects. Strikingly, time crawled gloriously.

Motivated by that recollection, I decided to try to recapture its magic. I succeeded, somewhat. When I can set my curiosity, naiveté, and mental agility on high, while dialing down my biases, cynicism, and focus to their lowest settings, my personal metronome occasionally can be slowed down.

For example, when in that zone, my never-changing vista on the world outside can transform into a kaleidoscope. The leaves dancing in the wind have a perfect rhythmic choreography. The clouds play a whimsical game of tag. The shadows of the day demonstrate an Etch A Sketch-like dynamic architecture. If the windows are open and I close my eyes, an organic-inorganic fusional symphony is produced as nature interacts with technology. Seconds seem like minutes. Minutes feel like hours. Suddenly, amid an ever-rapidly dwindling supply of sand grains, I have all the time in the world.

Besides, being a believer in God, it positions me better to join Him in the afterlife. As Jesus said in Luke 18:17, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

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17 comments

  1. I want to thank you for reminding me to slow down “and smell the roses” as the saying goes. You have taken the beast of ALS and used it to write so that others like myself may benefit. ALS did not take the gift of writing away from you. When my husband was diagnosed he also slowed down (in more ways than one) but he appreciated the little things so much more. Thank you for reminding me. You have a way with words and I hope you know that your writing is inspiring.

  2. Dave Reckonin says:

    Look Rick, when are you going to use some rationality and logic?
    You cannot have an All-Loving God but who tortures us to death without mercy, with things like ALS and a miriad of other horror diseases.
    If God exists then he gives Nature a license to kill with happy abandon. Why would he do that ?
    So, who’s in charge ? God or nature ? If Nature can do with us as it wishes it looks very much like we exist within Darwin’s logical and rational view of evolution. With inevitable screw-ups of cells and DNA along the way.
    If it is God’s plan to give you or me ALS then what purpose is served by doing so?
    You see where I’m going on this? No? e.g. When you think of so many other folks who DON’T get ALS ? Mmmm?

  3. Dave Reckonin says:

    Gotcha stumped there eh Rick, haven’t I. ….lol
    Most God-fearing/God-bothering folks have no cogent answer to the ‘Who’s in Charge? God or Nature ?’ question.

    It is very typical for them to ignore all questions that require reason,rationality and logic.

    Pray for us Humanists,Rick, please….Rick?…………Rick??

        • Dave Reckonin says:

          It’s OK Rick.
          You don’t have to answer the question if it frightens you so much.
          Most Botherers have trouble with the ‘Who’s in Charge ? God or Nature?’ question, as it cannot be answered from a spiritual point of view without a good flow of bibulous non-sequiters.

  4. Dave Reckonin says:

    “Researchers have found that ALS patients with no family history of the disease had higher levels of the ancient retroviral gene HERV-K env than patients with other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

    Human Endogenous Retroviruses (HERVs) are viruses that integrated themselves into human chromosomes during repeated infections over several million years of human evolution. They make up around eight percent of human DNA, but most have accumulated mutations that render them inactive. Occasionally, however, they can reactivate and cause disease.
    In 2006, neurovirologist Dr Avindra Nath of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Maryland, saw a young man who had both HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, and ALS – a degenerative disease that affects the neurons responsible for talking, walking and swallowing, among other motor functions. When the patient started taking antiretroviral drugs to treat his HIV, his ALS symptoms improved.”

    Nope Rick, can’t see the God-person here. Darwinian evolution ?
    Yes. Even with all its flaws.

  5. Dave Reckonin says:

    Theoretical physicists- the anathema and devil incarnate of god-worshipers- say that time is not a straight line and could conceivably allow a jump from a current time to a past time period (and possibly makes use of a black hole/wormhole). Of course when this is proved and time travelers go back in time to around 32-33 AD, they are going to attempt acquisition of a DNA sample from Jesus of Nazareth.
    This will be a very nervous time for believers. A very nervous time indeed, for obvious reasons.

    Time travel would be useful right now. Going into the future and bringing back a cure for ALS today would be very nice.

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