If we look at life in seven year cycles, we can see that development is both cyclical in a way and a spiral at the same time – hopefully we are taking our experiences and building on them in such a way that the years to come are better with what we have learned. The years of the thirties and forties are a great time of change, of growing, and of metamorphosis. Like all human development, there are individual journeys, but there are also pretty archetypal themes for different decades of aging.
Human beings continue to mature throughout their lifetime, so it is difficult to say, oh, our children are fully grown when they are 18 or 21 or oh, the brain fully develops around age 28…the reality is we are always growing, changing… we are always in need of encouragement and guidance, and if we do it right, hopefully we are always developing new capacities.
Maturity is that difference, that thing that stands in the gap so to speak. If 35 is a threshold for new insights, typically the late 30s and early 40s have a sort of loneliness to them. The beauty of this though, is that there is an awakening to community in the later 40’s into the 50’s. This community is made of the wonderful people who also are also set on growing wiser, finding truth.
I am almost 51 this year; 50 is a mystical number on many levels – in the Christian Bible, it signifies deliverance or freedom from a burden. I didn’t find 50 to be this for me personally as I am still in the thick of raising children and dealing with work and other matters. However, I do think it is the time to move from thinking into the realm of willing, and I think this is a time when many people feel the need to reach out beyond themselves or their family, into the world, and build community. I don’t think this is accidental, and I have experienced this this year: a true need and wanting to build community. I have seen it in the love for the community my children are building independent and separate from us as parents, but still intertwined. It’s quite lovely to experience.
In circles connected with Waldorf education and Rudolf Steiner’s study and insights into human development, 55 years and 10 months is seen as corresponding to the years of seven to fourteen but with increased health problems. While that doesn’t sound promising, it is a time when many report of a major surgery or major life-threatening illness. Is that always true? No, of course not. But it is this idea that the body eventually becomes a bit of hindrance and through that we can find new strength, new fortitude, new beginnings, newfound power so to speak, and this can lead up to a time of nearly never ending creativity at age 56 and beyond. And the time span of age 74 years and beyond can lead toward major works being published and projects created and finished because there this new creativity. A life’s work can be completed! Working on self development and self education is an important component of being able to do this work all the way into our 70s and beyond. I read an article in the New York Times that said by 2100, there will be 25 million centenarians. While very few people live past 115, there are a few who make it close to 120 years old. The question becomes, can these ages be a life well lived, a good quality?
I think the 50s are a good place to start.