Daily Riches: Aging and “Invisibility” (Paul F. Morrissey and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)

“It is strange to feel invisible. I don’t remember exactly when it began to happen. The only thing I know is that I am not seen much anymore when I walk by people on the street. It is a little discomfiting, a little bittersweet. I am now in my late 70s and rather healthy, even athletic for my age, so it came as a shock to realize people rarely look back when I glance at them. Not just women . . . . Men do not see me either. . . . this invisibility happens in smaller gatherings, too, even with people I know. Conversation whirls around the table. Snippets of this or that experience are shared. Chuckling to myself, I remember when I competed in the same way for the storyteller spotlight. Now I often sit and wait. It is not a bad space to be in. It can be rather peaceful if you can get over the need to speak in order to exist. . . . The world belongs to the young. “Yet I’ve got so much to share if anyone wants to know,” I muse to myself. . . . Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., says that this “diminishment” is how we prepare for the great merging with the cosmos that occurs when we die:

. . . there still remains that slow, essential deterioration which we cannot escape: old age little by little robbing us of ourselves and pushing us on to the end . . . . In death, as in an ocean, all our slow and swift diminishments flow out and merge.

. . . I began to tell a friend about this invisibility recently. Before I could explain what I meant, he immediately acknowledged that he, too, experiences this, even though he is only in his mid-60s. The way he described it was that he hardly sees anyone looking at him with a glimmer of sexual or relational interest anymore. We all enjoy seeing a flicker of—let’s call it personal—interest in another’s eyes as we go through our rather regular days, don’t we? A sign that we are still a little intriguing. . . . That we might be worth having a cup of coffee or glass of wine with. To be seen—to be desired . . .—is a beautiful human need no matter what our age is. God created us this way. . . . In South Africa, the people greet one another on the road by saying, ‘Sawubona.’ It means, ‘I see you.’ The answer is ‘Here I am.’ In other words, you are not invisible to me. You are someone. You are God’s beloved child . . . .” Paul F. Morrissey

“Jesus looked at him and loved him.”
Mark 10:21a NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you sometimes feel invisible? Is there anything good that can come from that–hidden beneath the pain?
  • Must you be seen “in order to exist?” Mull that over.
  • Do you go through each day in a way that conveys to others “I see you.”?

Here I am Lord. You see me. When necessary, may that be enough.

For More: “Becoming Invisible” by Paul Morrissey

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3 thoughts on “Daily Riches: Aging and “Invisibility” (Paul F. Morrissey and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)

    • I googled “Aging and invisibility” today to get the link to send to someone, and there is a mess of articles on this – especially as it applies to women who are getting older. It’s super common. The more I talk to people the more I hear about it. I did the post because I’ve felt that way myself, and more the older I get. This also applies to children, the elderly in general, homeless people, etc. etc. Thanks for your note. If you haven’t looked at the blog or the book already, I would suggest you do. You might find a lot of things like this that are of interest.

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  1. This doesn’t only apply to older people. Check out Natalie Merchant’s song “Tell Yourself”, which is written to 15 year old girls. And a relevant quote from Thomas Moore’s book The Dark Nights of the Soul: “You need to feel your own essence–who you are when you are not acknowledged and supported by someone else.” This is at the heart of the “invisibility” discussion.

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