We live in a youth-dominated age when the years toward the end of material life are seen as less important, if not something to be feared.
In ancient times, all would have been seen as a part of the whole and no age better than any other. Some religions have taught the importance of each of the ages for millenia, dividing a human life into three or four to mark the defining needs and demands of the times.
It is not so much that more people live longer, although that is a prevailing and convenient view to sell modern science/medicine to the world, but that we have forgotten, or never learned, how to live through life's specific ages. And they are specific. What you do in the first thirty years will be different to what you do in the second thirty, and different again in the third thirty and yet again should you get into the fourth and final stage of life.
Each makes demands and offers opportunities for which we need to be prepared. Or rather, for which we will benefit if we are prepared. Knowing how to age involves mostly, knowing how to live, but it also involves coming to terms with the fact that your life will end, sooner, not later, once you enter the third stage and its ages.
While too much time can be spent thinking, when life asks only to be lived, the other reality is that in the Western world we have much more time to think than our ancestors did.
We also have a far greater capacity to make our later years a gift, not just to ourselves but to others. In past generations people generally worked until they dropped and stopped, whether that was for death itself or a lingering until life ended. People did not have the opportunity, both gift and curse, to take the time to think about how best to live life at any point; but now many, perhaps most do.
Why is it so important? I think it is important because in this day and age we have lost so much that would have given us ground on which to stand and guidance on how to move forward. For, move forward we must always, whether it is into more life or into death.
In times past people found purpose in terms of mere survival, extended family, religion, spiritual belief and a deep understanding of the nature, purpose and process of life. Today, far too many of those who have reached Babuo's years, the mature years, spend their time counting out their daily dose of prescribed drugs and counting out their remaining minutes in front of a television set, or counting up the tally of potential fears for there is no doubt that we live in a fear-filled and fear-driven age, particularly when it comes to health and that is a factor which the years can push into sharper focus.
There are exceptions of course but we need more exceptions, for the sake of those who have entered the crone years or who stand on the well-polished step of those years, and for the sake of those following behind. Maturity happens for a reason. A fruit ripens for good reason and a human being 'ripens' for a good reason - both then have the ability to nourish.
There is a belief that people not only can become decrepit as they age, but must become decrepit as they age. That is patently untrue, because if one person is capable of living in robust health well past 100, then it is not a biological given that age must equate with infirmity. Although our profit and fear-driven medical industry would have it so and increasingly the pressure rises, the older one gets. Holding on to common sense and reason and holding out against the health/fear onslaught in society requires not just Bauboesque wisdom, but her strength and sense of humour."
Choosing what you believe becomes even more important in the crone years for this phase of life does not allow the same distractions in which youth can indulge - the belief that many years stretch ahead and all things are possible and life has barely been lived. Few years stretch ahead, less things are possible and life has been mostly lived.
I suspect this reality is why so many reduce their lives to small, manageable moments and circumstances, for it holds the focus on the mundane and too often, the trivial. Age too often means that people retreat into the smallest parts of themselves and the smallest parts of life when with the wealth of experience, knowledge and wisdom they have gathered they should or could be opening into the biggest and greatest parts of themselves.
As crones, and men are also crones because there is no male equivalent of this archetypal figure, for the masculine sage does not equate with Baubo as crone; for the crone is much more down-to-earth, much more like mere mortals and yet more, and much more of who and what we need to be in the later years.As crones we have gathered in that place where the riches of a life long-lived have been stored.
We are at an age and stage where we don't have less to do, we have more to do and we don't have less to offer, we have more to offer. The first question is what is it will you offer? And the second question is what form will this offering take - in other words, what can you do?
But before either question can be asked or answered there is a more important one and that is: Who are you? Know Thyself admonished the Eleusinian Mysteries of which Baubo was an important part and you will not know what or how much you can offer until you know who you are. This does not have to be deep and meaningful and in fact many people know who and what they are by the time they reach the crone years but many do not and even those who do can benefit from asking the question and reminding themselves of just who they are.
And that is where we begin, with the question: Who are you?