top of page

I'm Ageless and Timeless

David Cowles

Mar 1, 2024

“I am a spy; I can sense it, but I have no spy craft, no Bond-tech, and no ‘should you choose to accept it’ mission.”

My parents were members of The Greatest Generation, not me! I was born into the Who Am I Generation, aka the Baby Boomers. For some reason, ‘Who am I?’ seemed like a sensible question to us, and we allowed it to permeate every aspect of our lives. My parents couldn’t understand me, nor can my children.

So 75 years on, I’m motivated to return to the defining question of my generation: at the end of the day, “after the cups, the marmalade, the tea” (Eliot), who am I? Well…

I am an organism: I am a unique member of the species Homo sapiens, one out of 100 billion humans who have lived on Planet Earth. 

I am a society: I am 30 trillion organisms (cells), each harboring another organism (nucleus), some harboring up to 1,000 additional organisms (mitochondria).

I am an economy: The 30 trillion cells that form my body share a common code (DNA); yet they differentiate into tissues and organs that perform vastly different functions, all in support of the host organism, me; they practice an extremely sophisticated version of division of labor

I am a polity: My body houses, protects, and provides for 100 billion, mostly symbiotic, bacteria. 

I am a citizen: I participate as a member in various overlapping human societies and in one overarching society, the biosphere, which encompasses all terrestrial organisms. 

I am topos: I am a fissure in the fabric of spacetime. I hold a mirror up to the world. I am how the universe experiences itself. I am consciousness.

I am a black hole: I have no hair, i.e., I have no qualia. I just am. I am the collapse of space and time. I am a singularity. I am a monad – I am unchanged since the moment of my conception, and I am unchangeable…at least until the moment of my death. Nothing about me that can change; anything that can change is not about me. 

I am an ouroboros: I am not what I am, and I am what I am not. I am forever chasing my tail. In Exodus 3, YHWH says, “I am what am.” I, on the other hand, “am not!”. I am everything…but in the mode of not being it. I am not anything; I am not everything.

I am la différance – a neologism contributed to the French language by late 20th-century philosopher Jacques Derrida. I am a quantum of difference. A ≠ A’ but A – A’ = 0 or A = A’ but A – A’ ≠ 0. I am not myself, yet there is nothing between me and myself. I am myself, displaced.

From my earliest memories, I have always felt that something was out of place. I never felt quite ‘myself’…and it turns out that that’s because I am not ‘quite’ myself. I am separated from ‘myself’ by différance.   

As a child, I felt a powerful disconnect between who (or what) I really was and the things I was doing, the person I was being, and the roles I was playing - a disconnect between ‘who I am’ to myself (nothing) and ‘who I seem to be’ to others (a float in the Macy’s Day Parade). 

I am 5. I am standing at the far corner of my posh pre-school’s front lawn. I am gazing outward, across a field of wildflowers, over a distant row of shops, onto the horizon. I am lonely, anxious, and terribly sad. 

As I stand and gaze, I feel that I’m not supposed to be here, but somehow, I am. I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong body, but what can I do about it? Who can I go to for help? “Mommy, I’m not supposed to be here!” – I don’t think so.

I don’t know enough yet to imagine that this angst might be the first stirring of philosophical insight or spiritual awakening. It just hurts…like most everything else at age 5. 

But I make a mental note: “Whatever happens, I will always remember this moment,” and so I do! In fact, thanks to Marcel Proust (Search for Lost Time), I’m still standing at the far corner of that lawn right now. Nothing has changed; no time has passed.

I know that I’m supposed to be me. I mean, who else am I going to be? And I desperately want the me that I am to be ‘something or someone’. I confuse Being with Being X. Of course, to be something or someone is to be someone or something else, something I’m not, someone I can’t be. But I don’t know any of this at the age of 5!

Imagine the loneliness…and the terror. I’m growing up among a bunch of ‘aliens’ (‘alien’ to me, not because I imagine they came from outer space, but because they appear to be something I’m not - persons.) I am a human baby, utterly defenseless, being raised by ‘wolves’. No wonder I have anxieties; no wonder I can’t breathe. I am a spy; I can sense it, but I have no spy craft, no James Bond tech, and no ‘should you choose to accept it’ mission. I am at the mercy of all that surveys me. 

Now I am 10; my ‘10-year-old boy’ identity is impressed upon me by every adult I encounter, by the way they treat me. But I am not a 10-year-old boy, and instinctively, at least, I know that. But again, what am I to do? Should I say, “Daddy, there’s been some mistake? I am not who you think I am. I am not 10; I am ageless and timeless. I’m just pretending to be 10. Please treat me as your equal, not as your 10-year-old son?” 

Gertrude Stein said that we are all always to ourselves, young men and young women. She was only partly right. Young adulthood is the time in life when we feel our age least. We are no longer too young for things, and we are not yet too old for other things. We are in the ‘opportunity zone’. We come to identify this period of minimal age with agelessness. Whenever we feel ageless and timeless, we imagine that we feel the way it feels to be a young man or woman. 

And so, I set off on a knight’s quest, determined to reunite my Peter Pan self with my shadow. Like generations of lords and ladies before me, I am in pursuit of the Holy Grail, aka ‘me’. 

Fortunately, I’ve always had friends in low places. My friends don’t treat me like a 10-year-old because they don’t see 10-ness in me anymore than they see it in themselves. To ourselves, we are ageless, and our friendship confirms this. Friendship is an agent and consequence of age-blindness. 

Why are peer groups so important to tweens and teens? Because they offer a safe space, free of toxic age consciousness. It’s the only thing that keeps us sane. 


David Cowles is the founder and editor-in-chief of Aletheia Today Magazine. He lives with his family in Massachusetts where he studies and writes about philosophy, science, theology, and scripture. He can be reached at


Click the image to return to Spring 2024.

Do you like what you just read? Subscribe today and receive sneak previews of Aletheia Today Magazine articles before they're published. Plus, you'll receive our quick-read, biweekly blog,  Thoughts While Shaving.

Thanks for subscribing!

Have a comment about this ATM essay Join the conversation, and share your thoughts today..
bottom of page