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  • Writer's pictureRichard Portugal

Do Not Go Gentle

In 1951, Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote a poem for his dying father. In but a few lines and stanzas, he captures the angst, confusion and fear of those who die and those who witness death:

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

We may not all rage against the dying of the light, but we certainly make grand

attempts to encourage the light to remain. Aging and death should come easy to

us, however, since from our day of birth it is predetermined that we age and die.

This is our evolutionary process, one our genes accept, yet our nature does not.

Perhaps our inclination to procreate and continue our species is so engrained and

requires such fortitude and energies that we simply will not gently allow life to taper its flame.

Aging has never really been a period of peace or retirement. We have always attempted to extend its reach, to remain healthy and strong, to push death further away and to make more meaningful those days that remain. We have taken the emotional rage and transformed it into meaningful action. We better understand nutrition and eat foods for healthier results; we exercise our bodies and minds to hone skills for daily living; we comprehend medical necessities to support our natural dynamics—and all to push the close of day farther away and allow the dying of the light to remain at bay.

Humans are singular in our endeavors to live a healthier and longer life. We are creatures of the present. We live in the moment. Our lives play out on a linear timeline, the past gone, the future mere supposition. It is the present we control and it is the present that dictates what is yet to transpire. The measured moments in our lives progress from birth to death on a seemingly straight path from infant, teen, adult to old age. Experienced in this aging transformation, it comforts us in that we know what to expect, but not exactly when to expect. Our deaths are preordained, but the timing and circumstances remain a mystery. We can manipulate the timeline and circumstances, but the moment of crossover from adult to senior or from life to death is quixotic and veiled. We can excel in the moment; we can exercise our bodies and stress our minds to encourage plasticity and responsiveness; and we can make better the doing of activities of daily living. But our ultimate fate is curtained, making that what is unknown, hidden and a bit frightening.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt told our country that “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance....”. This was delivered during his first Inaugural Address in January 1933 and reflected a population’s unease at continuing economic hardship, global political instability, and social unrest at home. The fear of fear itself can cause such torment as to lead to self-destructive behavior and social upheaval. For an individual, it is the same. The fear of death can be paralyzing and sap us of energies necessary for daily existence. There is only one way to calm the fear of death and that is to temper that fear with lucid and balanced living.

So, here we are after a million years of evolution still only really knowing one thing: to survive and live well we need to maximize our bodies and minds. We live in the moment. Let us rage against the dying of the light, but keep well lit what is given to us in the moment.

Copyright © 2018 Richard J. Portugal All rights reserved.

Submitted by Richard Portugal, Fitness Senior Style, LLC, 201-937-4722.

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