I’m starting to think the so-called midlife crisis – along with the habit of older folks to become increasingly conservative and crotchety with age – has more to do with a general sense of resignation than advancing age.
At some point, we reach an age where we’ve been around the block enough times to know that all the fads and movements are just more of the same, yes? We start to recognize that no matter how stylish our hair, car, home interiors or successful our careers, kids, relationships or how much muscle we pack on or fat we trim, all that is really happening is a shuffling of the deck chairs on the Titanic.
In other words, each of us is doomed, we know we’re doomed, and no matter how many tattoos or diets or fads we embrace, gravity always wins and to the earth we shall return.
The mid-life crisis seems to be a kind of last-gasp attempt to breathe new life into the same old life – the cherry-red Corvette, new lover, career change, move to Costa Rica. Sounds good, but as the saying goes, wherever you go, there you are. ‘You’ are the one piece of baggage you’ll never, ever shake.
Which is why the elderly become resigned to it all. Fuck it, I tried everything, but it’s still me, albeit with a bad hip, fading eyesight/hearing, and a vague dread as to how it’s all going to end.
Some pine for a return to the good old days, fickle memories mistaking the health and promise of youth with an image of ‘happy days’ or ‘good times.’
If we’re paying attention, the one thing all of the aforementioned has in common is an outward search for happiness, meaning, prosperity, peace. It is the one constant you can depend on as you scan the immense history of humanity: billions and billions engaged in an endless external search for a lasting internal reward.
Occasionally someone comes along and says, “You’re looking in the wrong direction.”
The response: erection of grand religious traditions looking outward toward this new god or guru. It’s almost Monty Pythonesque in its absurdity.
So what is it to ‘look within’?
I’m not sure there’s any one way to start. You could begin with the old adage about questioning everything – the thoughts, the thinker of those thoughts, the recipient of those thoughts. Or, you could ask for guidance, then allow the answer to come (ignore whatever the mind tells you).
The key, though, is to recognize that nothing ‘out there’ – including the body and mind – has ever or will ever produce anything of lasting value. Ergo, the truth must reside within that which is even bothering to contemplate these questions in the first place.