Young creatures grow and expand at an alarming rate. Before you know it they have outgrown their shoes and clothing tugs tight. Hair gets longer – and longer and the first cut is an event to remember. Sometimes with tears and screams. Depending. Some save a lock so precious is that sign of development. So fast this expanding, each day, week, month brings a gasp of amazement. Soon speech and exploration, nothing is sacred for a toddler. Yes, an expanding and exploring self, developing before our very eyes. In no time that toddle is walking arm on arm to music and applause. Another cycle about to begin.
Then the slow trickle. Imperceptibly expansion turns around into contraction. For sure there is some breathing out and breathing in, the growth and decline and growth again however, imperceptibly, contraction. The world, the horizon, extents just past finger tips. Hair thins, clothes hang, nails horn like. Ballance once a challenge towards standing now a challenge of a different kind and magnitude. Vastly different. The self contracts? Diminishes? Or so it might appear.
I have been using the expression ‘diminished capacity’ as a catch-all phrase for those whose world is closing in on them. Mentally, physically and emotionally. I’m shaking, she tells me on the phone. Another and another speaks of what life has become. However while my elderly friends might smile ruefully at my recently, severely diminished, ivy plant picture above, (and that’s another story) there is dignity and depth in the sedate stepping. Gnarled hands indeed but the vital life, inner life, does not fade from the eyes. However sunken or hooded they may become.
What we call the self is not what we think!