I recently read an interview with Twyla Tharp the 78-year-old internationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer who spoke about her new dance premiere “A Gathering of Ghosts”. The interviewer commented on her amazing productivity and energy at her age, and she said “age is not the enemy, stagnation is”.
Reminded me of a woman who was about her age when I met her 40 years ago in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She approached me, neatly dressed and coiffed, wearing a veiled pillbox hat, came up to my bellybutton and asked me for the time. I looked at my watch and said it’s 2 o’clock and then she proceeded to speak to me uninterruptedly. She told me she had a 2 o’clock appointment with friends who had not yet arrived, this was her first time here in the Michael Rockefeller Memorial Collection of Primitive Art , knew nothing about these cultures, was interested in flowers, worked as a docent at the Bronx botanical Gardens, and on and on.
I’m listening, but not really there; I’m looking around at the “spirit canoes” carved by Asmat Natives along the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea. These supernatural vessels are intricately carved with mythological creatures who carry the dead to the spirit world and transport boys into manhood.
In the midst of my reverie I hear her say “I think that’s the secret of life”, which immediately brought me back to her, knowing I had clearly missed something. “What’s the secret of life” I asked, and she replied “sneakers are the secret of life” I look down at her feet and see she’s wearing sneakers. I looked at her with wide-eyed incredulity and asked, “how are sneakers the secret of life?” and she said they’re only comfortable if you keep moving.
I think about these two wise old women now that I too am an old man. I’m moving more slowly, but not stagnating. Moving is not just about shuffling your feet, it’s transporting your mind and spirit to a place that fills you with joy, and totally engaged in every moment.
This is the Thanksgiving season, say thank you for all that sustains us, and
let’s move forward together to eliminate inequality, corruption, and save our planet from extinction.