LIVING A GOOD OLD AGE
Inspirational thoughts selected by Helen Nearing
Old age is one of the most unexpected of all things that happen to man.
Every man desires to live long, but no one would be old.
Few people know how to be old.
I am old, yet I look at wise men and see that I am very young. I look over those stars
yonder, and into the myriads of the aspirant and ordered souls, and see I am a stranger
and a youth and have yet my spurs to win. Too ridiculous are these airs of age.
I quite love my present age [he was 56] - the compensations, the advantages of it - the
simplifications of freedom, independence, memories. But I dont keep it long enough.
It passes too quickly.
In my old age there is a coming into flower. My body wanes; my mind waxes.
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays
young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.
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.
We who are old know that age is more than a disability. It is an intense and varied
experience, almost beyond our capacity at times, but something to be carried high.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I
rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid
torch which Ive got to hold up for the moment, and I want to make it burn as
brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
Development can indeed continue beyond childhood and youth, beyond the seventies. It
can continue until the very end of life, given purposes that challenge and use our human
abilities. . . . In sum, our development does not necessarily end at any age. We can
continue to develop in our eighties even to our nineties.
Michaelangelo did some of his best painting when past 80; Goethe wrote when past 80;
Edison was still inventing at 92. . . . Frank Lloyd Wright at 90 was considered the most
creative architect; Shaw was still writing plays at 90; Grandma Moses began painting at
79, etc., etc.
A person of sixty can grow as much as a child of six. The later years are a time for
self-development, emancipation, a spiritual growth.
Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious
children before the Great Mystery into which we are born.
As I approve of a Youth that has something of the Old Man in him, so I am no less
pleased with an Old Man that has something of the Youth.
From Light on Aging and Dying, by Helen Nearing. Copyright © 1995 by Helen Nearing. Excerpted by arrangement with Harvest Books. $10. Available in local bookstores, or call 800-543-1918, or click here.