It’s no secret that I think Baseball Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg may be the most gorgeous creature God ever set on this earth. My students carry me pretty high about that, mostly because they find it hilarious that anyone would consider a middle-aged man attractive. Meanwhile, I find it incomprehensible that anyone wouldn’t consider Sandberg attractive. Who cares how long it’s been since he turned his last double play? Dude is hot.
That probably doesn’t sound like the lead-in to a riff on spirituality, but bear with me.
A couple of weeks ago, while teasing me about Ryno, a student expressed horror at the thought of getting “old,” which she defined as anything past 30. Several of her classmates nodded in agreement, so I asked the kids what bothered them about the prospect of aging. Their primary concerns? Gray hair, wrinkles, and a deeply held suspicion that boredom is directly proportional to age.
By my students’ standards, I’m old. I’ve got lines around my eyes and a gray streak above my right temple. I also look better and have more freedom, more disposable income, and fewer hangups than I had at 16. But there’s a multibillion-dollar industry that depends on convincing the public that age is ugly at best and hazardous to one’s health at worst, so it’s no wonder my kids are terrified of losing their looks or their happiness in a few years.
Mary Baker Eddy once wrote:
“Except for the error of measuring and limiting all that is good and beautiful, man would enjoy more than threescore years and ten and still maintain his vigor, freshness, and promise. Man, governed by immortal Mind, is always beautiful and grand. Each succeeding year unfolds wisdom, beauty, and holiness.”
I’m Madison Avenue’s worst nightmare. I refuse to buy into society’s carefully cultivated obsession with youth, and I’ve always had a thing for silver hair and laugh lines (which might explain why I find Sandberg more attractive now than when People magazine was fawning over him in 1990).
I don’t mind that my kids think I’m old. But I wish they knew that lines come from laughing too hard, and gray comes from caring too much about too many things. Maybe then they’d realize the signs of aging that scare them so much are merely the visual evidence of a life well lived, and they wouldn’t be afraid any more.