Thomas Moore is a pioneer of the art of soulful living. Since publishing the spiritual classic Care of the Soul, he has explored the soul of relationships, everyday life, sex, religion, ordeals, work, and medicine. Now in his 70s, he has gifted us with a wonderful, wise, and winning exploration of the soul's role in aging: "Your soul is there at every moment of experience in time, but it is also ageless."
Hold on readers, it's time to saddle up your adventurous spirit. Moore is ready, able, and willing to give you the ride of your life on the nurturing pages of this grand and timely book.
Moore starts with a simple and profound definition of aging:
"When I use the word aging, I mean becoming more of a person and more you over time. I keep an image in my mind of cheese and wine. Some get better with the simple passage of time. . . . Your very purpose in life is to age, to become what you are; essentially, to unfold and let your inborn nature be revealed. You let your ageless self, your soul, peek out from behind the more anxious, active self."
To age with soul into a person of substance and character requires saying yes to the opportunities and difficult issues that life presents.
Fighting the natural process of growing old is futile; it is better to see yourself as being many ages at the same time. The phases you go through never leave you, making for a complicated and rich life. Moore also celebrates the ways in which our souls age as we "take a step further toward being alive, engaged, and connected with the world."
Moore identifies five phases of aging:
- Feeling immortal
- First taste of aging
- Settling into maturity
- Shifting toward old age
- Letting things take their course
Aging, he writes, "is not just adding years to our total on earth. It is a process of humanization, of becoming more spiritually and culturally complex." Acting in tandem with this approach, Moore suggests tapping into one's youthful spirit by exuding enthusiasm and passion even as we get older. Try these two practices and you will feel like 40 in your soul when your calendar age is 77. Abounding himself with admirable vigor and a cascade of keen insights, the author assesses the rites of passages we go through in the mysterious unfolding of our lives.
In Part Two, Moore takes a look at melancholy, processing life's experiences, and the maturing of sexuality as three ways of becoming a deeper person as you age. On the last subject, Moore is convinced that as we get older we may find more pleasure in sex rather than less.
Reframing old age enables the author to delve into anger and retirement as a constructive forces. Moore also salutes the Taoist idea of wu wei, which he declares is the ideal he's set for his own older years. It means "achieving much without doing, or doing what you need to do without the old qualities of effort and anxiety. . . . Do a lot without trying so hard. Or, more radically, accomplish great things without any effort. Accomplish everything by doing nothing."
We were very pleased to see Moore's praise of the term "elder" which he defines as "a person who has matured, to the point that he or she naturally becomes a source of wisdom." This important role can be put into action as a friend, a grandparent, a mentor, a healer, and a writer. As an elder, you will want to read what Moore says about the importance of legacy and of transforming loneliness by pursuing vitality in all things.
Moore turns to one of his favorite seers, Nicolas of Cusa, for the thought-piece quotation for the final section of the book on "The Spirituality of Aging":
"You demonstrate that even in your later years you are tireless especially when you speak forcefully for what is right, and then you seem to grow young again."
Old age is a time where friendship and community can abound. Relationships give us a chance to develop our capacities for understanding, commitment, honesty, patience, and personal renewal. The love, care, and esteem we give others becomes a vital expression of our spirituality.
Moore appreciates spirituality as "a never-ending process of expanding your mind, imagination, and approach to life. Your ethics and sense of justice can always become more sensitive. Your degree of giving and service can always increase. Your intelligence and wisdom about the important things can always deepen."
He elaborates on how to experience this deepening with closing chapters on everyday spirituality, living with dying, and facing death.
We highly recommend Ageless Soul: The Lifelong Journey Toward Meaning and Joy as an uncommonly good companion for your spiritual journey as an elder.