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Living Fossils


Do you know any fossils? No, no, I don't mean those hardened pieces of million-year old bone, I mean fossil people! We all know some people like this, whose minds may have been open and agile when they were younger, but whose lives have since become a series of unvarying patterns. They do the same things, eat the same things, and say the same things, over and over again, in an endless, mindless routine. They have become 'fossilized'.

One of my acquaintances back in Canada is like this. Back in the 60's and 70's he used to listen to the Beatles, the Stones, and Billy Joel. What does he listen to these days? A 'classic rock' station that plays ... Beatles, Stones, and Billy Joel! In those days the two of us used to have endless arguments about certain political philosophies. I spoke to him on the phone a while ago, and guess what ... he's still spouting the same stuff! (I don't know if he's still living mostly on pizza and beer, like in the old days, but I sure hope not!)

Is it inevitable that we all become like this as we gradually grow older? Is there some point at which we simply stop having new thoughts, and just start endlessly repeating the old ones? Well, I don't really know, but I do have a bit of an idea about why this happens, and how we can perhaps avoid it.

As I see it, the big problem for my friend, is that he is still living within a few kilometers of the place he was born, and is surrounded by the same people who have always been around him. He has never lived anywhere else, and has only been away for short vacation periods. Well of course his mind travels along well-worn, deep grooves. He never encounters anything to stimulate it! On the other hand, think of the person who is living in a country completely different from that in which he grew up. The houses and living style are different. The food is different. The language is perhaps different. He is completely surrounded by people whose basic thoughts, mannerisms, and behaviour are not easy to predict. Daily life for this person thus becomes a constant challenge and learning experience. If he is any kind of open-minded person at all, he starts to absorb ideas and feelings from the culture around him. He learns, and grows.

This is the 'prescription' I wrote for myself some years ago to try and keep from becoming 'fossilized' - I moved to Japan. At age 42, I still feel fairly 'fresh', but perhaps the fact that I've had nearly 20 different homes has something to do with that. But all of a sudden, I'm starting to get worried. You see, I'm happy where I live now, and have no desire at all to move on again. Does this mean that 'the end is near', and that I too am becoming 'petrified'? Gee, I'd better not let anybody catch me listening to my Sgt. Pepper CD!