Aging as an Art Form

by evoker on January 18, 2018

in 70th Year

We must not forget that very few people are artistic in life: that the art of life is the most distinguished and rarest of all the arts. Whoever succeeded at draining the whole cup with grace? 
~CG Jung

I have woman friend, 87, who resisted going into a tiered living arrangement. But she relented. The she made big discoveries. “This is an exciting part of my life. I am writing again, and I have such wonderful friends here.” She is surprised by joy, the old C.S. Lewis title. She is still creating her life on many levels.

Many of us adopt a humble admission in our self-descriptions, “I am not a creative person,” we say. This is of course, Totally Wrong! When we say this we usually mean we don’t sculpt, paint or write poetry. But you have a life. You created it and are creating it every day. It may not feel like that because you have habits and systems: eat oatmeal on cold days, take a shower five times a week, indulge in the naughtiness, gross surprises, and intensity of “Game of Thrones” with friends. But you created this pattern and it can be changed anytime.

Most of the readers of this blog (and I have hopes for a broader audience in the years ahead) don’t have resource shortage problems as they age, as much as they have a design challenge. Our job is to spark our own imaginations again as we age out of the old patterns. Some of the time, the spark is strong and frequent, and you are in the flow of life. Sometimes the spark is weak or non-existent. Either way, the path we set for midlife, which carried us in careers and in family roles for decades, this path is petering out with empty nesting and retirements and knees that won’t let you run marathons, or even 5Ks, anymore.

So, this is where composing a life, aging as art form, comes to play. The ultimate creativity, as Jung says at the top of this post, is that rare art form of a life lived with intention, in its many themes, blending all and merging, overlapping, and contrasting/complementing into a thing of embodied beauty. It is a creation to be lived and experienced by the person doing the composing and to be appreciated and witnessed by those in contact with the composer.

I witness my friends this way—no perfect lives that I can find assuredly, but beautiful lives laced with meaning, with a range of loving friends and family, community participation, rich conversation, play and fun and still some kind of work for some, and art perhaps… the whole human imprint of what we can enjoy, engage, and express.

The question for all us. Where are we in the composition of our aging life as art form? Are we embellishing what’s already beautiful, or are we somewhat out of flow and back to the need to design, perhaps due to a change in health, or the loss of the loved one, or a retirement?

Aging as art form may be most like jazz. It does not get pinned down in a score to be followed, but its basic themes provide the melodic possibilities and the improvisation day to day, month to month, creates the art.

How can we live our lives as art form? It’s simple, but not easy (like most of the life’s curriculum): improvisation upon the themes.

Let’s be artful… let’s see if we can do what Jung poses and drain the whole cup with grace. It’s worth every ounce of intention we can muster.


Image above: SMOOTH JAZZ by Bill Sutton, Licensed under CC-BY 2.0, Original source via Flickr

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