“The calculus of aging offers us two options: We can live a shorter life with more years of disability, or we can live the longest possible life with the fewest bad years. As my centenarian friends showed me, the choice is largely up to us.”
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean –
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down –
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Coming Into Eighty
Coming into eighty
I slow my ship down
For a safe landing.
It has been battered,
One sail torn, the rudder
We are hardly a glorious sight.
It has been a long voyage
Through time, travail and triumph,
Of learning what to be
And how to become it.
One day the ship will decompose
and then what will become of me?
Only a breath
Gone into nothingness
Or a spirit of air and fire
Greet us at landfall
The old ship and me,
But we can’t stay anchored.
Soon we must set sail
On the last mysterious voyage
Without my ship there,
Wish me well.
“From the time that I was 6 years old I had the mania of drawing the form of objects. As I came to be 50 I had published an infinity of designs; but all that I have produced before the age of 70 is not worth being counted. It is at the age of 73 that I have somewhat begun to understand the structure of true nature, of animals and grasses, and trees and birds, and fishes and insects; consequently at 80 years of age I shall have made still more progress; at 90 I hope to have penetrated into the mystery of things; at 100 years of age I should have reached decidedly a marvelous degree, and when I shall be 110, all that I do, every point and every line, shall be instinct with life — and I ask all those who shall live as long as I do to see if I have not kept my word.”
19th-century Japanese artist Hokusai, who at 75 added this postscript to the first printing of his “One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji
“Our reluctance to honestly examine the experience of aging and dying has increased the harm we inflict on people and denied them the basic comforts they most need. Lacking a coherent view of how people might live successfully all the way to the very end, we have allowed our fates to be controlled by the imperatives of medicine, technology, and strangers.”
Atul Gawande, MD
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.”
George Bernard Shaw
from Quartet No. 1: Burnt Norton
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past…
…What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
“Now I am 79. I’ve written many hundreds of essays, 10 times that number of misbegotten drafts both early and late, and I begin to understand that failure is its own reward. It is in the effort to close the distance between the work imagined and the work achieved wherein it is to be found that the ceaseless labor is the freedom of play, that what’s at stake isn’t a reflection in the mirror of fame but the escape from the prison of the self.“
Lewis H. Lapham
Holy The Body
I’ve thought so little of you that now
you seek your revenge in the grinding
of kneecaps, the tightening of hamstrings,
loss of elasticity, the skin. So long neglected,
you weren’t even an afterthought. I apologize
each morning with a handful of pills. Oh,
scarred flesh of me in the mirror, as I turn the page
on another decade, I bless the stretch marks
on my stomach, evidence of those dead years
when food was my one friend. I bless
the crow’s-feet at the corners of my eyes,
proof of days spent under the sun. I bless the gray
in my beard, reminder that sometimes,
despite ourselves, wisdom appears.
I bless our breaking down, dear body,
pray the process is slow, that when time
confronts us with its choices, you’ll teach me when to hold on, when to let go.
“You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.”
T. H. White, in “The Once and Future King”
“Don’t try to be young. Just open your mind. Stay interested in stuff. There are so many things I won’t live long enough to find out about, but I’m still curious about them. You know people who are already saying, ‘I’m going to be 30—oh, what am I going to do?’ Well, use that decade! Use them all!”
“We live in a youth-obsessed culture that is constantly trying to tell us that if we are not young, and we’re not glowing, and we’re not hot, that we don’t matter. I refuse to let a system or a culture or a distorted view of reality tell me that I don’t matter. I know that only by owning who and what you are can you start to step into the fullness of life. Every year should be teaching us all something valuable. Whether you get the lesson is really up to you.”
Aging is not ‘lost youth’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”
“There are six myths about old age: 1. That it’s a disease, a disaster. 2. That we are mindless. 3. That we are sexless. 4. That we are useless. 5. That we are powerless. 6. That we are all alike.”
“If you are pining for youth, I think it produces a stereotypical old man because you only live in memory, you live in a place that doesn’t exist. Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.”
Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
“Your 40s are good. Your 50s are great. Your 60s are fab. And 70 is f*@king awesome!”
“Oh, the worst of all tragedies is not to die young, but to live until I am seventy-five and yet not ever truly to have lived.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”
“To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.”
Pearl S. Buck
“I’ve always said that I will never let an old person into my body. That is, I don’t believe in ‘thinking’ old. Don’t program yourself to break down as you age with thoughts that decline is inevitable.”
“Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young.”
“Old age is an excellent time for outrage. My goal is to say or do at least one outrageous thing every week.”
“A human being would certainly not grow to be 70 or 80 years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species to which he belongs. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life’s morning.”
“If you associate enough with older people who do enjoy their lives, who are not stored away in any golden ghettos, you will gain a sense of continuity and of the possibility for a full life.”
“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.”
Henry David Thoreau
“Elderly people are like plants. Whereas some go to seed, or to pot, others blossom in the most wonderful ways. I believe beauty competitions should be held only for people over seventy years of age. When we are young, we have the face and figure God gave us. We did nothing to earn our good looks. But as we get older, character becomes etched on our face. Beautiful old people are works of art. Like a white candle in a holy place, so it the beauty of an aged face.”
“I’m baffled that anyone might not think women get more beautiful as they get older. Confidence comes with age, and looking beautiful comes from the confidence someone has in themselves.”
“The wiser mind mourns less for what age takes away than what it leaves behind.”
“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.”
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.”
“Relish love in our old age! Aged love is like aged wine; it becomes more satisfying, more refreshing, more valuable, more appreciated and more intoxicating.”
“Getting old is a fascination thing. The older you get, the older you want to get.”
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
“There is also this pressure in Hollywood to be ageless. I think what I have been witness to is seeing women trying to stay ageless with what they are doing to themselves. I am grateful to learn from their mistakes, because I am not injecting shit into my face. I see them and my heart breaks. I think, ‘Oh, God, if you only knew how much older you look.’ They’re trying to stop the clock, and all you can see is an insecure person who won’t let themselves just age.”
“Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.
“I am appalled that the term we use to talk about aging is ‘anti.’ Aging is as natural as a baby’s softness and scent. Aging is human evolution in its pure form.”
Jamie Lee Curtis
“Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.”
“In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.”
“A successful old age may lie not so much in our stars and genes as in ourselves.”
George E. Vaillant
“We don’t grow older, we grow riper.”
Questions? Comments? Suggestions?