Ancients’ Wisdom

A 75-year-old retired major has been in the news because he took a dive off a 40ft high rock into the sea. It’s called ‘tombstoning’. He landed on his tummy and was carted off to hospital, but was soon discharged. He was reportedly in trouble with everybody, including his family, for being so rash. A coastguard said he ‘should have known better.’

I’m coming up to 75 and would not take a header off a cliff, not because I ‘know better’ but because I’m a bit arthritic. Even if I were superbly fit I would be scared. 

 People of my generation have to take a line on old age. We can be rather cool  ‘oldies’. We can face the facts and try to live in the moment – or defiantly take a stand against the advancing years and say ‘you’re as old as you feel’. Denying old age is akin to defying it. I don’t know which might be true of the major. I regard the latter as utterly admirable.

T.S. Eliot said: ‘Do not let me hear/Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly’. He also pointed out that in old age we are continually looking back and re-evaluating our earlier life. My view is that it makes sense to do this.

We have to make peace with ourselves and others.

I  don’t particularly like the modern world. I detest bossy bureaucracy, Dayglo officialdom, health and safety. I’m a paid up grumpy old man. And what happened to the old dark blue police uniforms? But at least, nowadays, in the UK, we don’t hang and flog people.

I have a particular interest, in some voluntary work I do, with the needs of old people. I often wonder what they’re thinking but would hesitate to intrude on their individual ways of handling being old.  So I thought I might occasionally say what I think.

 My online dictionary says the word ‘geriatric’ can be used as an offensive term – not very empathic perhaps.  I’ve just been listening to and reading  ‘The Dream of Gerontius’.  There’s wisdom in that all right. And perhaps there can be wisdom in folly.

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