#28daysofwriting Day 11: Age is just an illusion

I was whiling away my lack of time, procrastinating, chilling, connecting, socialising; call it what you will but, I came across this post.  woman upside down on a pole, wearing purple two piece sparkly swimsuitThe article and the photos challenge our perceptions of age and capacity to do things.  How many times do you make judgements about people based on their age, their gender, their job, where they live?  It made me think of my gymnastics coach when I was just 10 or 11.  Her name was “Mrs Pollard” (we would never have dreamed of even imagining what her first name was, let alone using it!) and she seemed ancient to me.  She was very small, very skinny, very wrinkly and incredibly flexible and strong.  She could still do the splits and do handstands.  And she was very dear to us even though she scared the living daylights out of us!

As I get older, I am surprised when I look in the mirror at the middle aged woman that looks back at me.  Surely that is not me?!  The grey hair, the crinkles in the corner of my eyes, the wrinkles around my neck if I look at the wrong angle, the liver spots on my hands.  I am surprised because in my head I don’t feel that old.  I don’t picture myself that old.  I don’t feel that old.  I am not that old… it is just an illusion.  Of course, 52 isn’t old.  I can still do handstands.   But not the splits!

woman doing a handstand on the top of a hill

Isn’t it interesting though how age is perceived in different cultures?  In western cultures we adore youth, fresh skin, slim hips, bright eyes.  How many “stars” have facelifts, bottom tucks, boob jobs (male and female) to maintain the illusion of youth?  We often ridicule the forgetful traits of the older generation, their old-fashioned morals and values. But in India and Japan, in Native American cultures and in many tribal communities in Africa and other places around the world, older people are respected and honoured.  Their wisdom and experience of life is acknowledged, they are looked after and welcomed into family homes to live out the latter parts of their lives.  In Japan, elderly people are celebrated with their own special day  “to express respect for them, and to recognise and thank them for their contributions to society”.

But maybe the tide is about to turn?  Another Facebook post from a friend recently was this article about going grey gracefully.  Grey, apparently, is the new “chic”!  Bring it on!

#edcmooc What it is to be human; Part 3 True Skin

TRUE SKIN from H1 on Vimeo.

True Skin raised more questions than I can answer or have time to think about in the short time we have in edcmooc.  This short has really got me thinking; it raised lots of issues about life, society, equality, ethics, morality and especially what it is to be human.

It made me think of “Sight” that we watched last week (or was it the week before?!) Anyway, the glasslike, piercing quality of the eyes and the invasiveness of the technology on the mind were disturbing .

Interestingly, my first thoughts were around the idea that in general we often resist new ideas on instinct; a sort of defence mechanism, that life is all good and we don’t really want to rock the status quo. A few seek the new things, the different things, while the rest of us watch and wait.  Slowly we start to see the attraction, curiosity gets the better of us and more of us try the new thing, the different thing.  There is a pivot point of adoption; the point where more people have the new thing than the rest and that is when everyone has to have it.

It made me think of Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros”. It is a story of humanity, of choices, free will, control, existentialist and dystopian but also utopian in the end – true humanity comes through.

It made me think about the increasingly blurry line between humans and machines.  If we can “back-up” our memories like computers where doe the human end and the machine begin?  When our hard drive gets full we can archive old memories and make space for more or store them to review later. It is not a new concept – J.J Rowling’s character Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter used a pensieve to store his thoughts!

If we will be able to store our thoughts, our knowledge, our feelings, how will that impact on learning?  As we age all those things will not be lost – they will be retrievable (as long as we store them logically).  But will they become distorted?  Will they evolve in the telling and remembering as our memories tend to now? Will we be able to “save as” but keep the original?  How much of our ability to empathise, to understand, to feel, to analyse will be lost?  Will the nuances of our memories  remain, the context, the reality?

I was also prompted to think of man’s age old quest for eternal youth (also a theme in Harry Potter!); the idea that we can regenerate, get a new body to replace an old worn out one but maintain our memories, thoughts and experiences.  How much of our humanity are we prepared to sacrifice for that?

not hiring naturals

In the short those who had not chosen (or maybe could not) to “enhance” were seen as second class citizens, old, sick, pathetic, destined to beg for their survival in the street, unable to get jobs.

“Let’s face it, no-one wants to be like them, entirely organic”.  “No-one want to get sick and old and die”.   

If there is a world where the sick and the old are percieved to be irrelevant, surplus to requirements where will that end?  Relationships, family, society, community, the ability to care for each other, nurture, revere, respect, communicate, connect, hope – they are the human qualities that give our lives meaning.  Without them we are reduced to machines.  The lines will no longer be blurred.