Forever young

Forever young

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I want to be forever young
When waiting at our local Chinese take-away shop for a container of Nasi goreng and a $5 serve of chips I read. The magazines are mostly about cars but there are also some out-of-date, expensive fashion and beauty magazines. I am more interested in them than the motoring magazines. What caught my eye recently was a double-page spread of single small containers of ‘anti-ageing’ creams. The price of these individual tiny jars (height 2 inches – 0.0508centimeters) ranged from – believe it or not – $400 to $800.

The blurb for these products claimed that during sleep their powerful anti-ageing, wrinkle reduction properties would, re-densify the skin and firm contours. This magic was made possible by ingredients such as Pro-Xylane and Fragmented Hyaluronic Acid and other exotics. I suspect some of these could be radio-active. Hmm!!!
Recently, while staying with my son in Brisbane I daily drove my daughter-in-law to work. With time on my hands I took walks around this newly developed, upmarket centre. There were restaurants, a grocery shop and a 7-Eleven. However most of the premises were devoted to health and beauty; hair styling, hair removal, lash extensions, body piercing, body contorting with firm and fold (what is that?), day spas with hot stones. And there were a number of cosmetic surgery premises. These offered, trimming down, building up, shaping up – or shaping down, wrinkle removal etc.. The cosmetic surgery slogans intrigued me,, “Get the body you always wanted”, “Look as young as you feel,” “Cosmetic surgery – inspiring confidence in YOU”.

The cosmetic surgery premises were clearly upmarket. In their windows they displayed pictures of beautiful young women. One large poster I remember was of a gorgeous woman, teenage I think, with clear eyes and flawless skin with her arms on the neck of a horse with a flowing mane. Despite or is it because of these posters, I am told that the clients of these establishments are predominantly older women. No doubt they are seeking the ‘forever young’ look of the poster girls.

The photo at the top of this article is of my young friend Madie. She was discovered in high school by a photographer who specialised in photographing hair styles. To me in his photographs she represents a fantastic, out of this world, glamorous angel, a symbol of ‘forever young’.

We spent a couple of hours with some children friends in a playground. They made friends and through them I met the mother. Clearly she worked out and she was dressed in a forever-young sporty style. But something was wrong with her face. Driving home, the chidlren’s mother asked had noticed her face. “Yes” I replied. “ I assume she has been in an accident “. But it was not so. My friend told me her facial distortion was due to a botched botox treatment. Clearly there are a few stumbling blocks on the road to ‘forever young’.

Anyone who reads my little stories will know that my reference point in everything is always Jesus. Well, Jesus was deeply into ‘forever young’. In fact he said unless you became young again you would never understand what he was on about, what God is like and where God is in his creation. But, Jesus was not talking about returning to the beauty of youth. He was talking about returning to an even earlier stage of life. He was talking about being born again. Whatever else Jesus’ words about being born again mean, (John3.3) it means to understand the mysteries of life, it means you must look again with very young eyes, the view of a small child. He repeats this to his disciples and a gathered crowd in Matt 18.1-5. In the words of Jesus to be forever young is the key to understanding and encountering the divine in the universe, in our personal universe and the galactic universe.

This is hard to comprehend. It is too radical to be taken seriously. Because of this, the church cuts and dices it down to size – our size and then forgets about it. In some parts of the church becoming being born again is equated to coming to the front in an evangelistic rally or falling on the floor in a Pentecostal gathering. Large parts of the church say this being born again happens to babies when they are ceremonially sprinkled with water or dipped in water. But, once born again is neatly defined in some way the ‘forever young’ way of viewing life is left behind. It is as though the church says, “Having the mind of a child? We’ve done that, so let’s get back to being adult again.”!

In our contemporary world the feverish pursuit of a youthful appearance has nothing to do with regaining the mind of a child. In this piece I have focussed on women but men are equally obsessed with retaining an appearance of youthfulness. For men ‘forever young’ means bulging biceps and flat-pack stomach. The explosive burgeoning gym industry is built on the idea they will help adults to stay for ever young. Magazines, TV programmes, medical science, diet gurus are all aiming to help us stay ‘forever young’ – for a price of course.

That is not what Jesus was talking about. He was talking about having the heart of a child, the perspective of a child. To me that means humility – “I know very little – I have much to learn: – a dependence on love – without love I will die, I will give love to anyone who loves me: -an absence of predudice, I don’t judge anyone: – a willingness to forgive and a readiness to be forgiven. These are just a few thoughts for starters on the heart of a child – there is much more.

There are many different kinds of churches but they all claim to be based on the words of Jesus. They all have to acknowledge his emphasis on being born again. However, when it comes to actual children, toddlers babies, they are dead-set on teaching them to grow up and be ‘mature’ like adults. What are they talking about! Anyone with any self-knowledge knows how screwed up and damaged we adults are – all of us. Despite this, ignoring the words of Jesus, we make little effort to learn from children and the way they see life. Who wants spontaneity, vulnerability and honesty?. Rules, rituals and dogmas are much safer.

If a person goes to a church to learn about Jesus’ slant on ‘forever young’, he/she is likely to be signed up and committed to giving money for the rest of his/her life. In the end this may work out to be more expensive than $800 jars of potion.

Scarcely a day passes without someone showing me their baby pics. Babies photos are just about the most prized of all pictures. Forget about scenic wonders or world heritage sights, time and again the baby pics will be the most prized. Why?

Years ago in Chicago University I took a couple of classes with Elizabeth Kubler Ross. Her book on ‘’Death and Dying’ has been a best seller for years. She talked to us about life’s last great adventure – dying. She said that nothing can help to prepare us for this journey more than babies. Looking at babies, touching babies, hearing the gurgle of babies, (not their screams). All of these contacts bring comfort hope and peace to those whose life is nearly finished. I believe it and I believe it has something to do with being born again – forever young. The life that is withering in me is coming again in this small child – we are connected – we are a continuum!

On the other hand, I noticed years ago that a favourite subject of world famous photographers is old people – ethnic old people, sophisticated old people, old people with wrinkly faces and bright eyes. In a world that feverishly pursues a forever young look, why are we drawn to these images? Could it be, the glint in their eyes has something to do with ‘forever young’?

These days, it seems that every time I turn around there is someone who wants to take a photo of me. Why is this so? I am not a wrinkly old person. I am a fat old person. But, I do love children and babies. I feast on them – they energise me. Could it be that some of their beauty rubs off on me? That sounds a bit far fetched.

Stan Stewart

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