HOW NOT TO BE OLD
Do understand that I am not saying that being old is to be avoided, nor that you Should Not Be Old, but rather I mean to say that there is a way to Be Old and a way Not To Be Old.
Now there would seem to be two different camps when it comes to defining Old. On the one hand there are those who want to celebrate the value and the virtues of age, to own aging, to engage with bravery its manifold vicissitudes, to chuck out the urge to remain current, to find delectation in the license of the elderly to be cantankerous, unaccommodating, and obstreperous.
To be fully old, authentic in our being and available in our presence, with its gravitas and eccentricity, directly affects the public good… This makes oldness a full-time job from which we may not retire. – James Hillman
But there is another camp being staked out by my own, aging, generation. Which is, “Grow old? Like hell.” Me? I travel back and forth between the camps like a messenger, who may well get killed one day because neither camp likes the message I bring.
A goodly portion of the English language derives from the eighth-century epic poem Beowulf, which, some scholars contend, places oldness among such virtues as nobility, mercy, esteem, and power. I’m totally down with that, because the old are survivors; they know shit, they are far less ruffled by the bushwa swirling around us these days. And they have the capacity for greater happiness than most of their juniors. One of the greatest proponents of this approach to aging is the Jungian analyst and author James Hillman, whose book The Force of Character is a must read for anyone noticing the lengthening shadows of age. Hillman extols the pleasures of settling into an old suit of skin, of taking the slow way round. Or, as I see it, of simply being who we have, incontrovertibly, become as the years have repeatedly dunked us into the fixative of our own characters.