Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Growing Old

Being old for me has less to do with one's physical age than with intellectual and emotional rigidity. It is true that, for the most part, this rigidity is linked to one's actual age. As people grow older, they are less capable of absorbing new ideas. At the same time, the strength of emotions they can experience fades in comparison to what they used to be able to feel decades ago. Still, some people come to stagnate intellectualy and emotionally at 25, while others maintain a freshness of perception at 70.

Nobody wants to grow old. For me, the best way to avoid it is to combat our natural tendency to intellectual and emotional complacency. When people start getting annoyed with new ideas, new technology (e.g. the Kindle, the i-phone, etc.), new ways of communication (blogging, the Twitter, etc.) this means that they are slipping into the old age of the intellect.

The belief that teenagers and people in their early twenties are somehow less moral, less intelligent, less mature, or in any way worse than we used to be at that age, is also characteristic of this rigidity. (As an educator, I know for a fact that the growing generation is truly worthy of admiration, so anybody who complains about today's kids is completely wrong). The desire to judge the younger generation arises from feeling that you no longer belong to it, that you are growing irreparably and uncontrollably old.

Emotional youth is, in my opinion, a capacity to feel excited and happy about new things and new experiences. There is an age when people stop dreaming about visiting new places, stop reading new books, stop learning and feeling. And that is old age, whenever it actually happens.
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NancyP said...

I am getting less rigid with age. I suspect that, having failed at various things in life (as do we all), I have learned compassion for other people who fail.

Emotional youth vs age: sometimes when people stop dreaming and feeling, it is due to depression.

I will admit to being a bit jaundiced about some of the "new" popular technology, such as twitter, simply because I am a non-texter and use the cheapo phone plan. Voice phone and computer work fine. And some things are appealing time-suckers. If it doesn't fill MY needs, I don't feel obliged to use it.

I do feel that I have a firmer attachment to books as objects than the younger generation. I linger over books, preferably outdoors on a nice day. I read scientific articles on computer screens.

Clarissa said...

NancyP: You sound like a person who is far from being rigid. I don't mean to say that one has to enjoy all of the current means of communication. I persanally don't tweet, but unlike Maureen Dowd, for example, I don't feel justified in labeling anybody who does as a halfwit.

I'm equally annoyed by the patronising attitude of my colleagues in the academia who see me with my Kindle and never stop to think that it really helps my mobility as an academic.

NancyP said...

My equivalent to the Kindle is reading journal articles on a laptop. Larger screen, better reproduction of figures (does Kindle even do illustrations?).

Clarissa said...

It's great you can read articles from the computer screen. I wish I could, but my eyes hurt too much. The Kindle allows you to see illustrations but only in black and white.

Fran said...

I've just turned 69, although folks on my blog might be surprised at that. I have as much eagerness, as much energy, and certainly as much ambition for life, as I had at 30, or even 20, and I'm certainly more focused.

I am an artist who occasionally sells, and I'm currently querying my second novel, and revising my first.

Boredom is one word never to be tolerated and I scream if my friends mention it.

AND I embrace everything new, especially music, writers, technology. This is the secret. Never look back.

Clarissa said...

It's so great to hear from you, Fran. You are an inspiration to many people.

I know people who are 30 and who are afraid to mention their age because they think it makes them appear "old." I think this fear of the date of birth that appears in your birth certificate ages you more than anything else. People at 70 or 90 can have more fulfilling lives than many 20-year-olds.

I can only hope and pray that I manage to be as creative, lively and fulfilled as you are several decades from now.

Thank you for mentioning boredom, I'm going to write a post about it.