In your personal life, aging depends less on the physiological than on social age. Social age is inversely proportional to your capacity to think, feel, and live the new as future, as a task, as still-to-be-experienced present. You’re as young as your capacity to live life as if it were an experience of constant new beginnings, leading not to repetitions of the past, but rather to futures – maps waiting to be explored and roads waiting to be travelled, always ready to take risks, admit ignorances and respond to new challenges. I speak of the future as anticipation, as the “not yet”, as latency or potency. Seeing as you are aware that you never live but in the present, the future is always the incomplete present, a present as a task, as an event, for which you are personally accountable. To have a future is to be the owner of your present. Conversely, the more you live your life in the belief that the world has already decided what you’re supposed to expect and, consequently, that the future is closed off to you, the older you are. Thus, aging is living on repetition or in repetition, as if each repetition were unique and unrepeatable. It is passing away your days as if it were the days themselves that were passing, in their mindless daily stroll.
Repetition can be lived in three different ways: as if the past were an eternal present that daily routines, institutions and the news all but confirm (aging by living death); as if the past had passed and left in its wake an ungraspable void for which only card games, television or ailment talk can offer an escape (aging by dead living); and finally, as if both the past and the future were equally remote and inaccessible, causing an insurmountable panic for which only an excessive wasting of the body by alcohol, drugs, gym, church or therapy can offer an escape (aging by life without death).
In our societies of manufactured and computerized bodies, both public and private services have been created to provide assistance to those who encounter serious difficulties in coping with the repetition of repetition. Ultimately, we’re talking about the normalizing of decay. Aging, in these societies, is always the result of a chronic depletion of energy, either spent or still unspent. It consists in displaying with conviction the sold-out sign on the door of the theater of life, even if no play has been staged there in a long time or if it hasn’t ever even seen a first rehearsal. As far as the first two forms of aging are concerned, the goal is to invest in the past as if it had never really passed. It increasingly consists in the marketing of co-aging services. They tend to be effective, because the invention of repetition cunningly conceals the repetition of invention. The underlying idea is that, no matter how unbearable, the experience of aging is always more bearable when it is shared. As for the third form of aging, what is sought is not the omnipresence of the past, but rather the omniabsence of the past, an eternal present whereby the future is relieved of having to haunt the living with the not-yet-here bad news. These are the techniques for aging through rejuvenation. They amount to a modified version of the metaphor behind the movie ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story of the same title, whose protagonist is born an old man and then grows increasingly younger until he dies an infant. According to the techniques for aging through rejuvenation, the clock in the railroad station of the small town in the American South stops instead of moving backwards, and with it time stops as well.Print