Blogpost # 869  POWER AND LIGHT: Redux

The classic, Greek, “Riddle of the Sphinx,” solved by the Greek hero and later, King, Oedipus, asked, “What walks on four feet in the morning, two feet in the afternoon, and three feet at night?” The eternally, correct answer is Man; who crawls when a baby, walks upright on two feet when an adult, and, later uses a cane (i.e., “three feet”) in old age.

The arcane question, correctly answered by King Oedipus, symbolically, relates to the lifetime changes in humankind’s dynamics of ambulation, and while symbolically, and accurately, descriptive of Man’s empirical, altering prowess, over his lifetime, says nothing about the qualitative changes, taking place concomitant with his human maturation.

One may readily find a plethora of legend and folkloric tales, in the history of Humankind, in which Man is heroically, sung, for his signal acts of bravery, physical strength and prowess. By any reasonable comparison, far less accounts of written praise are dedicated, to Man’s unique and commendable exercise of reason and judgment, when vitally, called upon. The riddling Sphinx, itself, it seems, only concerns itself with physical phenomena.

Society has eternally, worshipped youth and extolled strength and physical fitness. In our contemporary society, for example, major athletes, are remunerated in amounts, so far in excess of academic researchers, professors and scientists as to not be rationally comparable. Such preoccupation with youthfulness, notably, has provided the salient impetus for the Nation’s marketing and advertisement of clothes, cosmetics and other items, perceived to extend youthful appearance. Looking “younger” seems to be an eternally universal preoccupation and the aspirational standard for dress, and sometimes, even judgment.

The irrational and narcissistic, desire to (appear to) arrest the demonstrated advance of the stereotypic, features, naturally associated with aging, has resulted in the extensive commercial production, advertisement and sale of such creams and oils, as are purported to conceal wrinkles, crepe, dry and discolored skin, bags under the eyes, tighten throat surfaces, and, generally, fight the natural, visual, and immutable progress of species maturity. Indeed, there is a portion of the cosmetics industry, dedicated to the production, advertisement and public sale of a “cosmetic” substance called, “botulism toxin.” This widely, used, wrinkle-removing, toxin has been medically determined to be capable of attacking the human nervous system, and causing difficulties with breathing. Despite its chemical and medical categorization as being among the most lethal substances known, it, nevertheless, appears to be highly sought after, and used, cosmetically, for its rare and desirable property of removing age wrinkles. This, in our view, is as rationally, and sensible, as removing a wart by amputating the relevant finger.

In any fair competition between the natural phenomena of aging, and the most exotic, expensive, designer packaged, creams or ointments, it would be wise to wager on a victory for the aging. It might be still, wiser, to amend one’s personal criteria for happiness.

In addition to the physical features, naturally attendant upon most of us, fortunate enough to enjoy the franchise of life into our older years, there is a corresponding loss of physical strength or power. For the masculine portion of the population, this age-related liability is, at least as disturbing, for many, as the stated, facial and other visible evidence. For those individuals who have not chosen to include, aesthetic and intellectual pursuits in their life, the loss is traumatic. It should be, instructively, noted, that individuals, (male and female), who, have pursued elective areas of personal interest and have developed a wider understanding of themselves and life, in general, may be more reconciled to the dynamic, concomitants of aging.

For contemplative individuals with a developed and mature perspective, the natural decline in physical strength, or power, is sufficiently, compensated, by their unspoken gratitude for the empirical fulfillment of their potential franchise of life, together with an experiential and thoughtful understanding of themselves and a mature perspective on (their) life.  Those who have attained such enlightenment (“light”) are, incomparably, better positioned, mentally and emotionally, to be peacefully, resigned and, indeed, reconciled to aging’s steady erosion of strength (“power”) and are, thus, enabled to contemplate, and be appreciative of their, recently developed, experiential and mature insight.

As declared in an earlier essay, on the subject of aging, one learns, with the advent of maturity, the enlightened lesson, that “old age is not a disease,” but rather, the time for one’s grateful, acknowledgment, of the good fortune to have been granted by nature, the full extent of one’s potential franchise for life, and, hopefully, one fulfilled by a state of achieved enlightenment.


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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