A Massacre


The psalmist said, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,” (Psalm 139:14). But ask a physician and he’ll tell you the aging process is anything but wonderful.

Although the processes can be slowed— diet and physical activity can make a difference— they cannot be stopped. Our functional lung capacity decreases. Our bowels slow down. Our glands stop functioning. Even our brains shrink: … The earliest portions to shrink are generally the frontal lobes, which govern judgment and planning, and the hippocampus, where memory is organized. … By age eighty-five, working memory and judgment are sufficiently impaired that 40 percent of us have textbook dementia.—Dr. Atul Gawande

If we’re so well designed—and we are—why do we wind down so ignominiously? Why must our latter years be so fraught with frailty and failure?

The betrayals of body and mind that threaten to erase our character and memory remain among our most awful tortures. The battle of being mortal is the battle to maintain the integrity of one’s life—to avoid becoming so diminished or dissipated or subjugated that who you are becomes disconnected from who you were or who you want to be.—Dr. Atul Gawande

I watch this diminution happening to loved ones and it breaks my heart. I hate the indignities of old age. With Dylan Thomas I, “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

The Bible insists this decrepitude is our fault, not God’s. Biology blames the cycles and seasons of nature. I’ve changed my thinking as to the cause of our decline and demise. At the same time I’ve clarified the hope to which I cling in the face of the inevitable.

More on this in another post.

“Old age is not a battle.
Old age is a massacre.”
—Philip Roth

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