Going Downhill: Transcending The Outer Shell

oldyoungThe Philosopher, C.S. Lewis said, “You don’t have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body.” The more I have ponder this statement, the more I am convinced of its truth. My life is basically my consciousness. I haven’t really changed, but I have grown and matured. I like the person I have become. Yet, my outer shell, my body, has changed. On one level, I went from being a fat person, to being a normal sized person. I have written about this transformation in the past. Our outer shells can help us feel good about ourselves or bad about ourselves, yet when I was heavy or now that I am thinner, I am still the same person.

What has taken me by surprise is that my former excess weight hid the signs of aging in my body. Now that I am thinner, I have wrinkles and sagging skin. I have body pains I never had to deal with in the past. The illusion of still being in my 30’s is gone, and has been replaced by the realization that I’m getting old. I am presently older than my grandfather was when I was born. I am not feeling decrepit, but the awareness is somewhat jarring. Inside, I still feel like a young man in my 30’s, but the reality is, I’m not. My children are in or getting close to their 30’s. As their souls have matured, I have seen them more as peers, and less as children.

As a younger man, I watched my grandparents get very old. I understood this to be the process of life, but I didn’t think much about it. It was what it was. Now that I am older, I help my elderly parents, and have watched them go from being strong to being frail. When I talk to my dad, he is mentally sharp, and I enjoy being with him and talking with him. When I have to assist him to stand, and see the look of trust in his face, like the look of a child trusting his parent, it makes me think that part of his soul is still the child that grew into my father. I grieve for the child in him that is now an old man. It makes me feel more tender towards him. Ecclesiastes 11:10 says, “Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, And put away evil from your flesh, For childhood and youth are vanity.”

When I look at my children, growing and maturing, I am proud of the people they are becoming. I appreciate them, and worry for them having to live in the world they are inheriting, yet I know they will be the souls they have become in whatever happens in the world.

I am a soul, and I have a body. My childhood hero, Mickey Mantle, outlived his father and grandfather. When interviewed, he said if he knew he was going to live longer, he would have taken better care of himself. As I have grown in awareness of my aging, I too wish I had taken better care of myself, and am trying to take better care of myself now, but ultimately, if I live long enough, I will continue to age, and eventually, like my father and grandfather before me, I will become frail.

Some people, when they come to this realization run to plastic surgeons and try to recapture their youthful appearance. The cheapest way is to use hair dyes, but there is nothing that looks more ridiculous than a guy with jet black hair on a wrinkly face. They aren’t fooling anyone. For people with more money, they get face lifts, tummy tucks, and have body sculpting. After I lost the majority of my excess weight, I did have excess skin removed, and it did make me feel like the thinner person I had become, but it didn’t change the person I am. If I had more money, I could have excess skin removed on other parts of my body, but I wouldn’t do it, because it wouldn’t make me feel better than I do now, and wouldn’t make me a better person, and quite frankly, at this stage of my life, I’m in a downhill slide. No matter what I do, it will only be temporary. In the 1960’s, my grandmother had a face lift. By the 1970’s, you couldn’t tell she ever had one.

When you get older, what can you do to improve yourself? You can work on two things: First, its wise to eat healthier. Eating healthy will make you feel better and protect your health. If you are going to age anyway, being healthy is always better than taking medicine and running to doctors.

Secondly, and more important, work on your soul. Whatever you invest in your soul will be with you a lot longer than what you invest in your body. Become the person, not the body, you want to be. You can feel pretty good about yourself if you like the soul you are. The body is superficial, and ultimately goes bad on you. Treat people with kindness. Do acts of charity. Laugh more. Enjoy people and life. Draw near to God. You are getting closer to meeting Him.


8 thoughts on “Going Downhill: Transcending The Outer Shell

  1. Great blog! One of the greatest treasures and memories I have is helping my parents as they were getting older and then enter into eternity. It taught me a lot about myself and about aging. I thank God that He enabled me to be close enough to be with them almost daily during these times. I pray I have taught my son as well as my parents taught me about honoring parents!

  2. Great comments……..I cannot say that I am overtly fond of getting older………but I have become acutely aware of the preciousness of the life that I have been given…………I cannot change my circumstances and I surely cannot change my age……….but as you stated, we are getting closer to meeting G-d………..so we should enjoy the ride and be grateful for what G-d has given us……….and not ponder the youth of our lives that is now past………….so I will take your advise and savor the moments that are left and grow my spiritual nature and cling to G-d.

  3. Wow. This is really powerful. You should really see my mom’s most recent blog “Eyes on The Prize,” it sounds like y’all are having similar epiphanies. Her blog is called “Repairing The World”…

  4. I grew up in the days when a fat baby was a healthy baby. By the time I was old enough to realize what a nuisance all the fat was. I had settled into a way of life that involved a lot of food, mostly of types that are well known not to be good for us. Think ice cream, peanuts, cookies, stuff like that. In my early twenties, the Navy took me to the Mediterranean for 7 months, and during that time I went from 210 down to 165. When I got back, my wife took a look at me she was shocked. It wasn’t that the Navy put me on a diet or anything, but I was so busy on the ship, I just didn’t eat as much. Within 6 months, I had the weight back.

    What I’m trying to say is, I am a fat person, and it has become part of my identity. My doctor has told me a hundred times, why I have to lose weight, and he’s absolutely right. I’m going to get started on it first thing tomorrow, right after my 3-egg omelet and toast with lots of butter.

    The difference between you and me, Rabbi, is that you have always been able to remember when you weren’t fat, and you had that earlier identity to cling to. I cannot do that. It has always been with me, even though I know it’s bad.

    People get addicted to alcohol and tobacco, AND to food. You can just plain quit smoking, as I did 50 years ago, and you can just plain never take another drink, no matter what. You CANNOT just quit eating. Smoking and drinking can be done in moderation, but when they begin to take over your life, you can totally quit. Eating can be done in moderation, but if it begins to take over your life, the only treatment is to go back to doing it in moderation. BUT, if it has taken you over, there is no more room for moderation.

    In your case, you had the courage and strength to do something that would force you to cut down, whether you wanted to or not. I cannot afford to do that, and the doctor has already told me I’d have to get a lot worse before they would do the surgery anyway. So, here I am in the middle, along with several million others.

    I’m not quite sure I agree with you, though, that I’d be the same person if I lost a hundred pounds or so. My weight is part of my identity, and I think if I could ever lose it I’d have to get used to a different identity.

    I’d love to hear comments from you and others on that.


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