Autumn is a time of year, more than any other, that makes us think about aging. And about the beauty in aging. the vivid flash of colors, and the fallen leaves effortlessly decorating the streets and sidewalks remind us that there is so much beauty in every phase of life. the textures of drying leaves and petals, the rich fragrance of a life well-lived, remind us that aging is an honor.
In his poem “On Aging,” the 13th century Sufi poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi asks the question that so many ask at one time or another. Why do we grow old? and even more so, why does everything grow old?
Why does a date-palm
lose its leaves in autumn?
Why does every beautiful face
grow in old age?
Wrinkled like the back of a libyan lizard?
Why does a full head of hair get bald?
Why is the tall, straight figure
That divided the ranks like a spear
Now bent almost double?
Why is it that the lion’s strength
weakens to nothing?
The wrestler who could hold anyone down
Is led out with two people supporting him,
Their shoulders under his arms?
"They put on borrowed robes
and pretended they were theirs.
I take the beautiful clothes back,
so that you will learn the robe
of appearance is only a loan."
Your lamp was lit from another lamp.
All God wants is your gratitude for that.
- Jalal ad-Din Rumi
For Rumi, aging is not a loss. In fact, through aging we come closer to our origin. Eternity is in our hearts and not in our exteriors, not in our robes or leaves. Drying petals and falling leaves remind us that life is not eternal, but that beauty is eternal and that life and every moment of it is a gift.