Birth, sickness, old age and death according to Master Dogen are not one becoming the other but experiences each inter-are with the others. So, what does this mean:
“The best age to be is the age you are.” Old age is its own part of life. In thirteenth-century Japan, Zen Master Dogen wrote, “Do not think that the firewood is before and the ash is after. Firewood is a stage unto itself and ash is a stage unto itself.” We are in the stage we are in; let’s not think of ourselves as has-been young people, or as about-to-be-dead people." Susan Moon. This Is Getting Old . Shambhala. Kindle Edition.(p.134)
Susan Moon looks at life from all sides now and ponders young-old (65-74), middle-old (75-84) and old-old (85-94, etc). I have entered middle-old now. being 76. How in the world did I get here?
Now, I can recall leaving Maine when I was five, or so I think, and other dizzy thoughts can arise by whatever year I choose to imagine. Yet this is illusion. So here I am in the now having struck the "k" on the end of struck, while now become the "e" on the end of become. This thinking about the moment can be tedious stuff! So don't think so much about thinking.
Being seems to occur more than doing at this stage for me. So I'd like to introduce Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD, a University Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Northeastern University, with positions in psychiatry and radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. In a TED/Talk she spoke of predicting as opposed to reacting thus creating the moment,
Predictions are primal.They help us to make sense of the world in a quick and efficient way.So your brain does not react to the world using past experience, your brain predicts and constructs your experience of the world.
So, if we follow Dogen, each moment is new and not, the after or before of the now.. Susan Moon suggests that we are "thus" at whatever age and weave stories back and forth about the narrator and other actors and scenes. Other people get emotional about friends and family growing-old (we are all doing this every moment) By growing I mean constructing our "age." Others judge age on socio-cultural, or statistical expectation scales, yet we are just being.
Our real age is momentary. It is very fast and a few hundred moments pass as I type this sentence. Breathing-in and breathing-out I construct my ageless world-view interacting with the infinite of the arising moment, constructing other moments on and on, and then, one day becoming a construct of some unfolding moments of family and friends.