There are two cheesy clichés that I repeat to my 63-year-old self on an almost daily basis: “every day, in every way, I am getting better and better,” along with “remember, age is just a number.” These two clichés fit snugly within my positive aging mindset, forming numerous psychological, philosophical, sociological, and spiritual perspectives.
With a view on bolstering such good thoughts, I recently read Thomas Moore’s newest book, Ageless Soul: Living a Full Life with Joy and Purpose. I’ve always been a big fan of Moore, who is currently 77 years of age. Two of his books I have read repeatedly, among more than 20 he authored over the years, are A Life at Work, and Care of the Soul, which was a 44-week NY Times best-seller back in the early 1990s, and still resonates today. I also enjoyed A Religion of One’s Own, his previous book, published in 2015.
In Ageless Soul, Moore hits all the important aspects of our aging selves that can be catalysts for more meaning and purpose in our lives, if we so choose. First, however, I think it is important to briefly define what Moore means by soul. The word soul always brings out my skeptical mind, but in a good way because it makes me think harder about the meaning of life. Nonetheless, I typically avoid any book or article title that has the word soul in it because of its typically strong religious implications, except, of course, if it’s written by Moore, or by two of his key influencers, namely eminent psychologists James Hillman and Carl Jung.
I am not a member of any religious congregation. But I was raised under a strict Catholic upbringing, attending Catholic elementary and high school. I was a pious altar boy, influenced by Franciscan priests, and came close to joining the seminary when I was an eighth grader. Not long after that, as a freshman high schooler, I left the fold; but, of course, important remnants of the Catholic faith remain. For instance, whenever I hear the word soul I think of the Holy Spirit and one phrase of the often-repeated Nicene creed that I must have said at least 1,000 times or more in my youth: “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.” The Holy Spirit was one part of the Catholic faith that, since my days as a young devout altar boy, I have always found to be the most interesting.
Soul, in its simplest, base definition, is our unique selves, given to us through birth. “A soulful person trusts his intuitions and other forms of inner guidance, knowing that a stronger sense of self abides there,” Moore wrote in Care of the Soul. In Ageless Soul, Moore takes that concept into our elderly years, asserting that the true meaning and joy of aging can only be discovered through a life-long journey toward getting a better understanding of our unique inner selves, as well as our relationship with humanity.
Count me in. I love this kind of thinking. Its implications stretch deep into the realms of psychology, sociology, spirituality, and philosophy.
Of course, not all so-called senior citizens think along these lines. In fact, most of my aging friends would prefer to avoid this kind of contemplative stuff. Moore addresses this repeatedly in Ageless Soul, admonishing those who prefer to stay far away from looking deep into themselves and their inner histories (good and bad) as they age, suggesting they grow up, accept life seriously, and face the obvious stings that come with growing old. “Aging is a fulfillment of who we are,” he says, “not a wearing out. . . Every advance in life involves a sting. It wakes you up and encourages you to pay attention. If you avoid the sting or explain it away or numb yourself to it, you don’t age, and that is a tragedy.”
Much more on Moore, and some of his influences, coming soon.
Thanks for stopping by,