“…My father, who lived to 94, often said that the 80s had been one of the most enjoyable decades of his life. He felt, as I begin to feel, not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective. One has had a long experience of life, not only one’s own life, but others’, too. One has seen triumphs and tragedies, booms and busts, revolutions and wars, great achievements and deep ambiguities, too. One has seen grand theories rise, only to be toppled by stubborn facts. One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty. At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together…”
A very poignant reflection on the joy of growing old from neurologist Oliver Sacks, who turned 80 on the 9th July 2013. Earlier in the year, for a story in the NY Times, he movingly and candidly reflected on his having terminal cancer - on his "luck having run out".
Sacks has a very well reviewed autobiography out now On the Move: A Life. For more on the book, including quotes from the book, visit Maria Popova’s website, here. The quote that features in this post is from her site too. More on her in an upcoming post.