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026 - On Senior Citizens - Moral Letters for Modern Times

If we want a true test of our training, we must check our thoughts against the one fate we can be sure is destined to come our way.
Abandoned blue dinghy on beach by the ocean - Moral Letters to Lucilius
Photo by James Bellerjeau

I was writing not long ago about coming to terms with my ongoing obsolescence. See On Aging. I fear I have left obsolescence behind and entered the realm of the antique. One still expects some functionality from the out-of-date, but the ancient is beyond function. I have not fallen so far, so you can place me somewhere between the going and the gone.

But I am not going to complain, my dear Deuteros, for I am still here, and you are still here. Or as modern day musician and author Chad Sugg put so memorably:

If you’re reading this … Congratulations, you’re alive. If that’s not something to smile about, then I don’t know what is.

In my case, my essence remains, while most of my rough edges have been worn away. With the clamoring of youth behind me, the cares of middle age put to rest, I am left with the companionship of an aged but well-ordered mind. It tells me that I have earned hard won peace, and who am I to contradict myself? Though I am careful not to take full credit for arranging my thoughts in this way, because the mere passage of time does a measure of the work for us all. If I am perfectly happy to no longer reach for the same heights, is it because I no longer feel the need? Or because they are beyond my grasp?

“But” you ask, “is it not a loss to see the steadily encroaching decline of your capabilities? To know that you will never again do more than before, but only less?” It is the nature of all living things to decay and die, Deuteros. I would rage as successfully against the wind as against the inevitable decline all people face. Let me make a claim against Lucian, whose accounts I have not yet plundered, but whose satiric riches are available to all:

The world is fleeting; all things pass away; or is it we that pass and they that stay?

That which is inevitable I am wise not only to not fear, but to actively embrace.

Things that are uncertain preoccupy our minds and occupy our time. Not so the things that are certain. If we want a true test of our training, we must check our thoughts against the one fate we can be sure is destined to come our way. It is our habit to prepare for many things that may not come to pass, for in this way we ready ourselves not to be bothered if they do. How much more valuable the preparation for our own deaths, which should come as a surprise to no one, though we may be taken off at short or no notice.

I take comfort that my lessons have taken root. I hear them in my thoughts when no one is listening, and I feel them in my soul, which no one can touch. Here to help pay my debts I call upon the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln who reminded us:

It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

I have lived, and I have no issue with either the number of my years or their nature. And even if I was so unwise as to be ungrateful with my lot, I know that we need no more than a single day to put things right. I am thinking of what English novelist Mary Ann Evans said, better known in her day under the name George Eliot:

It is never too late to be what you might have been.

Be well.

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