Earning GERAS

January 25, 2021
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ANCIENT GREECE classified people as either “youth or “old age.” No third or middle stage. You were one or the other. This was systematically reinforced through the arts. Youth, NEOTAS, was sweet, beautiful and heroic. Old age, GERAS, was ugly, mean and tragic. The normal lifespan was 35 years.
 
GANYMEDES was the handsome, youthful prince who was taken off to heaven by Zeus to be a cupbearer, as well as for other duties depicted on vases. GERAS, the opposite. The god of old age. Portrayed as a shriveled up old man, and in literature as “slough of a snake.” Geriatric comes from the root word GERAS.
 
Ancient Sparta was less focused on the arts and largely structured around the military.  In its governing core sat a council of elders, the GEROUSIA. Two sitting kings and twenty-eight 60+ year old men who served for life. Those fifty or older assembly members coming in front of the GEROUSIA, were permitted to speak first. It was a compliment to be told you had GERAS as it meant power, attractiveness, and excellence. There was great respect for GERAS as older male gods were portrayed with the highest levels of muscle mass and definition. Women’s life expectancy was 34, and men’s a decade more.
 
Rome, the first metropolis, contained one million people, with a life expectancy of 25 or so years. Fifty percent of its population did not make it 10 years. For those who lived to 60, they stepped down from formal obligations to live a life of leisure, or more precisely, were socially marginalized.
 
In the US, a female’s life expectancy is currently 81 and a male’s 76. Essentially double that of the noted BC and early AD era. Two lifetimes. Yet, still focused on a retirement age in line with ancient Roman thinking.
 
Once the ancient Greek and Roman lifespan ceilings were broken, age became meaningless. It is simply the stages a human body transition through. The mind, and its level of GERAS, exponentially grows in value as long as it doesn’t get stuck. Stuck in a specific time, a specific way of thinking, a point in architectural history, a way of doing things.
 
BEING unstuck. Earning GERAS.

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