Vainly I sought the builder of my house
Through countless lives,
I could not find him...
How hard it is to tread life after life!

But now I see you, O builder!
And never again shall you build my house.
I have snapped the rafters,
Split the ridgepole
And beaten out desire.
And now my mind is free.

This passage conveys so much meaning. It is the essence of Buddhism in many respects. Once desire is defeated, and the mind freed, the cycle of Samsara, of birth and rebirth, is broken. In this respect, old age is like youth. We are all trapped in the cycle of birth and rebirth and are no different. The old die and the dead are reborn and it all begins again. We are all just at different stages of the same seemingly endless cycle. I hope that in this life, I can come a little closer to becoming free of desire. Ironically, this itself is a desire. And so I have just failed a little ;-)

The subject of old age came up in a talk with friends recently as we were discussing the health problems of our grandparents. I commented, somewhat directly, how we'll all wind up there at some point, effectively killing the conversation. I just couldn't put into words at the time what I was trying to say. We are all so afraid, myself included, of senility, of memory loss, of 'losing our minds'. As humans, our sense of identity is directly tied to our memories and experiences. So, we think that to lose these faculties is to no longer be whole, to no longer be ourselves. I prefer to think that, in a way, when we lose ties to our past, or a concept of the future, we are free to dwell in the present. And the present moment is all there really is, so it is we, with all our faculties, that are at the disadvantage. However, to achieve this advantage through an accident of the biological processes of aging, is 'cheating' of a sort, I guess. And we must all still strive to live in the moment, with the baggage of our past and worries about the future. I'll keep looking for the builder.