"Worse than any loss of limb is the failing mind," ~ Juvenal

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-91)

The Lord once threatened said “And you shall be reversed to a childlike state”, whereas His prophet called it أرذل العمر – the worst age that befalls upon man. When a beloved elder fails to recognize her children from across a cloud of degenerative ocean. It’s an especially scary thought nowadays; since it’s so easy to be mentally numb with so much reality TV and internet and not enough coffee.

How do we maintain mental health in old age? A tip from the psychology textbooks: Read. A tip from the holy books: Meditate. While reading engages the mind, the other puts it in an unnatural state of calm.

Are those tips in conflict?

If we use our bodies as allegory, a balance is required between eating, working and sleeping to prolong relative, physical health. So, if the contents of our heads controls everything that happens in our bodies, isn’t it ever the more important to balance between mind’s needs for nutrition, productivity and recuperation?

For one, I’ve never heard of an elderly monk who lost his pebbles; whether to depression, Alzheimer or stroke. I have heard, though, of plenty writers and thinkers who did. Iris Murdoch lost to Alzheimer. Hemingway and Woolf to depression. And Nietzche to what may have been cow madness.

Perhaps, while vigorous mental activity keeps the mind at an active state of growth, food and exercise sustains it, while mental rests refuels that growth.

Then again, do we have turn into monks and live to monasteries to have the dignity of awareness in old age? You tell me.

While keeping in mind (oh, pardon the irony) that there is a difference between going into a vegetative blank and resting the mind. This is the intellect we’re talking about, not an excuse for a nap.

PS: We’ll update this post with your ideas, readers. Like how we did here.

Aneyeonsaudi said...

With all this going on around us and our persistence to keep up, this is a very interesting topic. I was whispering to myself the other day that ‘If I will not sleep some more hours per day, I am going to totally lose it.’ The problem is that I, and I believe we all, never learn. I might sacrifice my sleeping time for a good read, an interesting website, or even a captivating movie!
The magic formula of being sane for an extended period of time needs two participants:
- The body by eating well, working out and sleeping.
- The mind by reading, thinking and meditating.

Thank you for reminding us that we might be old sometime!

Coralbead said...

I believe that taking care of one's self at a young age has something to do with not going through second childhood later on. As kids and teenagers, we live on potato chips, burgers, and coke,watch TV nonstop, stay up late regularly and it goes on till adulthood, until our bad habits catch up with us in middle age.

We don't have to be nuns or monks to live an awareness-filled life in our old age.

Incidentally I personally know a 90 year old who still plays a good game of tennis and he could easily wear out opponents 30 years younger than him. He's not a total vegetarian; he doesn't smoke or drink, and he's what I call an "intellectual treat" to be with. It's just a matter of making the right life choices and striking a balance in everything.

What MuSe Sphere said was funny...

I always envy monks, of their calm nature, reaction, attitude and everything and I think it need a lot of effort to get to where they are, so the least they deserve is that for their brains to be safe and fine. I need their everything cuz I'm about to lose my mind while I'm not at my worst age yet :)

What Diana said was, er...

Its not becoming a nun or monk that's stopping me from being the healthy well-rested ideal of a human being. Its the thought that I might just have to be like everyone else. Sleeping at the same time and the same number of hours as everyone else.

For what is the struggle of a writer except to be the one that stands out? And how else to achieve that than being awake when everyone else is not? Especially when the writing is just not enough.

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