Crossing the Threshold into Old Age

Threshold

We cross many thresholds throughout our lifetime.

Tomorrow I will turn 60. What a surprise to softly land at this decade of life after so many turbulent years! I’m afraid that I cannot take any credit for it happening. My arrival has come all by itself with God’s grace.

I am happy to be on the threshold of old age. One of my friends recently said, “Oh, you are entering the age of wisdom.”

“I don’t know about wisdom,” I replied, pointing to my grey hair. “But I am certainly entering the age of whitedom, wrinkledom, and forgetfulness!” I understand this birthday as the beginning of another part of my life which is about to unravel.

As Brigitte Bardot said, “It’s sad to grow old, but it’s nice to ripen.” Old age may be the time when your body starts to fail in strength, energy, and functionality. But it is also the time when the soul starts to ripen. In old age you finally have the time and perspective to weave the various threads of your life into a more comprehensive understanding of yourself. Old age is the time to harvest all your experiences into a synthesis of Joy.

Roberto Assagioli encourages us to greet old age as a time to be “free from attachments and illusions of ‘normal’ life’ so that we might be ready to come into contact with the Spirit.” This spiritual connection can suddenly rejuvenate us within, adding the more positive characteristics of youth to those of maturity. Assagioli goes on to ensure us that spiritual rejuvenation in our old age is a very profound and fundamental process. By linking our personality with its intimate spirit, a powerful flow of light and love can be released. Such renewed spiritual energy becomes life-giving and transformational, not only for the older adult but also for all who encounter him or her.

Some traditions remain where we physically mark a transition by crossing a threshold.

Some traditions remain where we physically mark a transition by crossing a threshold.

As I cross the threshold into old age, I am once again entering a numinous and creative time of my life. Crossing a threshold is an in between state, not here nor there, not outside or inside. It is an emotional and psychological step that we must repeat at different points in our life journey in order to separate the life-giving experiences of our past from those we wish to leave behind. Such thresholds are often accompanied by the physical movement associated with initiation. For example, the young adult who leaves home for the first time, the new bride who is carried over a doorstep by her groom, the woman who gives birth and becomes mother, and the man who finally retires from his job and leaves the working world.

Threshold, the name for the strip of wood or stone on the bottom of the doorway, comes from the German Drischaufel, the first element arising from the word dreschen which means to tread. To thresh means to separate the fruits of the harvest from what is not nourishing. Before there were machinery or flails to do this, farmers would have had their bulls or cows tread upon the harvested wheat or corn, back and forth, to separate seed from shaft.

Threshing

Threshing the harvested wheat. Old age is the time to harvest our ripened soul.

Similarly, old age is the time to harvest our ripened soul. We hopefully arrive at the threshold of old age with enough maturity and potential wisdom to discern that which will nurture us from that which is of little use. Then we can honor and enjoy the fruits of our labor, and plant what is meaningful for our future and ultimate death. Old age is the time when we can become bulls treading on our own harvest, garnering the wild seeds of self-knowledge, and watching them blossom into renewed spiritual energy.

I, for one, am looking forward to it!

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