It requires twenty years for a man to rise from the vegetable state in which he is within his mother’s womb, and from the pure animal state which is the lot of his early childhood, to the state when the maturity of reason begins to appear. It has required thirty centuries to learn a little about his structure. It would need eternity to learn something about his soul. It takes an instant to kill him.
Age imprints more wrinkles in the mind, than it does in the face, and souls are never, or very rarely seen, that in growing old do not smell sour and musty. Man moves all together, both towards his perfection and decay.
Habits are the crutches of old age: by the aid of these we manage to hobble along after the mental joints are stiff and the muscles rheumatic…when every act of self determination costs an effort and a pang.
And what would it be to grow old? For, after a certain distance, every step we take in life we find the ice growing thinner below our feet, and all around us and behind us we see our contemporaries going through.
We all know the troubles of old age. The bones creak: the eyes get dim, one forgets names…. The spark does not ignite; adrenalin has lost its potency. But there is some thing to be said on the other side. It is pleasant to rise in the morning, look out at the snow, and remark “I’m not going to the office today.” The beauty of nature has lost none of its charm; the beauty of women none of its benediction. There is. . .a possibility of growing old gracefully, and with content in one’s heart.
Something there is that can refresh and revivify older people: joy in the activities of the younger generation — a joy, to be sure, that is clouded by dark forebodings in these unsettled times. And yet, as always, the springtime sun brings forth new life, and we may rejoice because of this new life and contribute to its unfolding; and Mozart remains as beautiful and tender as he always was and always will be. There is, after all, something eternal that lies beyond the hand of fate and of all human delusions. And such eternals lie closer to an older person than to a younger one oscillating between fear and hope. For us, there remains the privilege of experiencing beauty and truth in their purest forms.
In old age our bodies are worn-out instruments, on which the soul tries in vain to play the melodies of youth. But because the instrument has lost its strings, or is out of tune, it does not follow that the musician has lost his skill.