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Inanna’s Wild Ride

Or “What if aging were a Disney attraction?”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a younger friend’s off-hand remark that she wasn’t worried about growing old. My inner voice was shouting, “So what are you doing to get ready for it?” but kept my mouth shut. We were out having a good time, so why spoil the evening by spouting a litany of the harsh changes ahead of her?

I knew what she meant, though. I, too, once thought aging would be a breeze, but that was before changes in my health and employment status gave me a big ol’ reality check. What had I done to get ready for all that? Damn little. That’s why I’m proposing that Disney offer a thrill-packed amusement to give everyone a taste of what to expect. I’m calling it “Inanna’s Wild Ride.”

Inanna was known as the Queen of Heaven, beautiful, strong, and powerful, so the Disney artists will have a wonderful time drawing her. And she came from Sumeria, so they can have fun with all that exotic lost world scenery that they like so much, too. No need to do any research, I’m sure. They can make up some strange cuneiform and weird looking buildings that seem appropriately ancient, and off we go.

But I hope they won’t mess with the story, too much, because it’s a corker. There are several variations of it, but the main plot is that Our Queen actually descends into The Underworld, passing through Seven Gates along the way. And at each Gate she has to relinquish some vital part of herself. What better way to describe the journey into old age? (Yes, and beyond.)

Buckle up.

I’m imagining that the lines for this spine-tingling ride will be long, but it will be great fun to clamber into the cars with your friends as you head to the First Gate. And the first surprise.

Looking ahead, you see an enormous mirror image of your entire group — family and friends — laughing and joking when suddenly your conveyance splits apart and you hurtling down a tunnel alone, all by yourself. Ah well.

I’m sure you’ll all find each other again in the gift shop at the end. Meanwhile, your thoughts are strangely full of all the the many ways in which you and the people you love right now might part ways in the years ahead.

But before you can dwell on that too long, you are through the First Gate. What a lark! Easy peasy. And then you notice that your shoes — the Sumerian symbol of Will — have gone missing. Surely that’s all right. How important is Will anyway? Isn’t most of life mapped out for you already?

The pace picks up as your car careens deeper into the caverns, and you laugh happily on your way to the Underworld. You’re delighted to see how the car fills up with all the diplomas and awards, trophys and achievements you will no doubt accumulate during your lifetime. As you pass through the next Gate though, the guard tosses all of that into an already over-full trash bin and waves you through. WTF? Is that a Nobel Prize you see over there?

Does that mean you’ve already reached an age where those accomplishments don’t mean a thing anymore? How will anyone know who you really are? Sorry. No time to stop and ponder.

This ride is accelerating again and you are feeling sharper than you ever have in your entire life. Yahoo! You are doing simultaneous equations in your head, writing epic poetry, solving the California drought problem, ending racism, sending world-renown thank-you notes to everyone for every little thing, and addressing the United Nations without notes — right until as you approach the Third Gate.

And then you realize you have developed CRS and Can’t Remember Shit. The guard shakes his head, puts his hand on your shoulder, and puts your mind on a shelf. That guard looks kind of familiar, too. If only you could remember his name. You could ask him a question or two. If you could remember the question.

Ah. but your physical body is still enjoying the ride, yes? Not looking forward to Gate four too much now are you? Right. There goes your sexy. You’ve noticed a few other physical attributes changing, too, but since your mind is already gone, it’s hard to keep track. You can probably still play golf.

And still you ride on. Yes, you are still in there. You are still you. But at the Fifth Gate, some seed of rapture disappears. You’re feeling pretty small in your seat, and yet the ride goes on and on. You still like music though, you’re pretty sure of that. Not that you can hear too well, except the tunes in your head of course. And they play pretty much all the time. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could share them?

No worries: You’ve still got tricks up your sleeve. They’ve always gotten you through the worst of times. Hey. Pull my finger. But the guard at Gate six has seen everything, and he doesn’t go for it. Kiss magic good bye. It’s starting to get kind of dark, don’t you think? Really dark.

What’s left? Ah, Gate Seven is left, and so are you. You’re feeling pretty light right about now as you give up your spirit, and the Gatekeeper Old Whathisname removes the husk that was you, nothing but essence, from the cart which quickly glides away.

What a ride! I hope Disney opens it soon!

By the way, there’s more to the story: In the myth, Inanna was hung up on the wall for three days until she was rescued and revived, and I’m sure you will be, too. Your friends and family are the key to aging well. I’m sure many of them are already in the gift shop wondering what’s taking you so long to finish the ride.