What Do You Associate with Old Age?

Before I go any further, let me hastily explain that I don’t think of myself as being very old. Just older than I’ve ever been before. And younger than I’ll be one second and one minute and one hour from now, assuming I’m still alive then.

Okay, so what do you associate with old age? What about the one obvious answer, the one I just referenced–death and dying? Not most people’s favorite thing to think about. Mine, either.

Not that I’m afraid of being dead. I know where I’ll be then, and will that ever be better than continuing to live on this sin-cursed earth. But like many of you, I’m not fond of the prospect of a lengthy or painful final illness.

Do you associate old age with slowness? Physical slowness–did my father ever poke along as he got older–and mental slowness. Thank goodness he never reached that point until perhaps a few days before his death. And how horrible would it be to suffer through the last part of life with dementia of any kind?

Or do you associate old age with garrulous folks telling the same old stories over and over again and you having to sit there and politely pretend to listen and be interested? I hate to admit it, but that typified my father many years before he reached old age, and it didn’t get any better then. Yet now I wish I could remember many of those stories which–for better or worse–are forever lost.

Or perhaps you think of old folks in an all-too-similar way: as living in the past?

But those are all negative, undesirable old age traits. Don’t we associate anything good with old age?

I’m not sure whether the Bible speaks about those old age-related stereotypes I’ve mentioned, but it’s fascinating to read parts of the Old Testament and learn how many years various familiar (and some unfamiliar) biblical characters lived.

But one thing it does talk about–especially in the book of Proverbs–is something very positive: wisdom. Just out of curiosity I opened my Bible to Proverbs and put my finger down at a random place on the page. Sure enough, Proverbs 30:2-3 says of Agur–I’m not sure who he is, uh, was–“I am the least intelligent of men, and I lack man’s ability to understand. I have not gained wisdom, and I have no knowledge of the Holy One.”

Okay. Maybe not the most helpful passage. And even though most of the references to wisdom in Proverbs speak of it as a desirable quality, I couldn’t find one wisdom verse there that related wisdom and old age.

The Bible refers to wisdom 211 times, however, and I think Job 12:12 is applicable. “Wisdom is with aged men. With long life is understanding.” I feel confident there are others.

If you’re like me, you may question how many old people are appreciably wise. Too often it seems that the advice they’re inclined to offer seems outdated and irrelevant. That’s sad. I don’t think they could’ve attained old age without gaining at least some wisdom and understanding about a few subjects.

Perhaps our unwillingness to listen reveals a lack of wisdom on our parts.

What do you think wisdom is? Do you think of old people as being wise? How about leaving a comment?


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11 thoughts on “What Do You Associate with Old Age?

  1. Wisdom is the goal. It is the ability to think clearly and, using past references, make benificial decisions that will affect your future. Kids lack that important quality known as experience. Children usually cannot make wise decisions because they are inexperienced, easily beguiled, gullible… something we like to call innocense.
    Growing old does not confer wisdom. No. Wisdom comes from being alert, thinking as you act, remembering past errors and pitfalls and planning for the future so as to not repeat a wrong. It is also the ability to distinguish if something superficially good and discern the true intentions of someones disengenious actions.
    The bulk of old people are mushrooms waiting to be tilled under. Spongey brains lulled into catatonia… It is painful to see people who have no power in their thoughts, no imagination, no zeal for the truth: just content to change the channel and wring their hands and hope pleasant days are here… A studious mind is a young mind. I think without using our thinking ability we atrophy, become flabby, adrift in a intellectual fog. I truly enjoy aleret, smart active older thinkers. They engage me, sharpen me, test me, refresh me. I hope I will be among those few I recognize as old but wise, not just another knot ina dead log evicerated by the termites of inactivity.


  2. Wonderfully said, Tom. I cannot imagine your ever being “another knot in a dead log eviscerated by the termites of inactivity.” And I’m doing everything I know to do to avoid that myself. Trying to keep up with you helps, and I can’t thank you enough for that.


  3. Just as iron sharpens iron… Looks to me like you’re doing very well. Musician, author, poet, blogger… what more activity can you jam into a week?
    I’m in the throes of my second reading of your Pastor Gus novel. I look at it at night when I have time by myself to think. This go round I am looking at it with a different aim. I am studying your style. Compared to some writers I read you use a lot more dialog. A lot more. I was particularly interested in the prologue and the opening paragraphs. I have to say I would have approached it a bit differently. But that’s my style. And I also admit that I could not use dialog as well as you. For me, dialog is not used to transmit the storyline but to clarify a person’s position or interject an important feeling.
    Either way, these things are exercises we must conduct in order to remain on top of our game. I feel extrememly fit mentally at the moment, all the more so since I’ve had this opportunity to follow your blog and use it as my mental gymnasium. It helps me see better points of view I may not have thought about or, better, helps me focus on ideas to concrete my opinion. Keep it up Roger. You have a fan.


  4. Amen! about the iron sharpening iron. Interesting that you’re checking out Pastor Gus again, but doing it studiously. This blog has been a mental gym for both of us, but the important thing is it’s kept us both alert and thinking. Thanks for being such a thought-provoking fan.

    So many things have changed in the way contemporary fiction is written. I used to love James Michener, but wouldn’t be able to tolerate most of his books now. The outright inclusion of back story is pretty much forbidden except for those authors popular enough to get away with breaking the so-called rules. I think the use of dialog is one of the things that’s changed. And one of the uses of dialog is to convey back story without doing an information dump. *G*


  5. As regards how contemporary fiction is written I believe it has something to do with the audience’s ability to concentrate on a thread and follow it through. Our contemporary society is built around blurbs, sound bites, epitomes, summations. Almost no one reads the classics anymore. The local news is condensed into 30 second snatches. It’s all ”hurry up and get to the point” stuff. A big part of literature is the journey, the delicious route of words that pushes you toward the last page, the flavor of the writer’s mind, his ability to unveil his thoughts in a way that draws you under the covers with him.
    I’ve read a small shelf of Michener’s work and find it tedious, bland, unimaginative work. I read it for the history. There are other writers I find bean-stalks above him but did not sell as many books because the topics addressed were not as interesting.
    Most of the great writers of history, and I would include in that list Twain, Shakespeare, Garcia, Vonnegut, Dickens, Huxley (among others) did not go to writer’s conferences to learn to write. They had the unique ability to put down in words a story that gripped the imagination, transcend cultural divides, make people think and let them enjoy the trip. I think a lot of the advice people dish out in these forums is bad advice. It’s a business. Sure, it helps the helpless, those uneducated who want to fill in the blanks of some formulaic novel. But Your talent is above that. Break the rules. If your material is good enough it will fly.
    I am comparing your novel alongside the Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In my opinion your writing is actually smoother to read. He, on the other hand, went out of his way to break rules, go off in extended digressions about material that wasn’t even pertinent to his story but was nonetheless interesting or entertaining. It some cases it was shocking. He won a Nobel for that.
    I think my point is that you should just forget convention, and let spill from your pen the thoughts that nag at you and if it comes out in a way that is unusual but coherent, then so be it. I want to see the real machinations of the mind of Roger. This will make you stand out. Otherwise, you’re just trying to cram your mind into a mold that does not accept your persona.
    Forgive me if if this diatribe has gone over the edge or bothered you in any way.


  6. I hate to admit I haven’t read anything by Marquez, but I certainly appreciate the partial comparison. And don’t worry. I will stick to my guns about the things that constitute my voice and my style. My mind is anywhere but in a mold; in fact, at times it’s barely in my head. *LOL*

    Although I agree that some of what’s taught in conferences is rather formulaic, a lot of it is good and anything but cookie cutter-like.

    And, believe it or not, I’m frequently in touch with other authors who read the classics, including the ones you referenced. One of the most important things about writing a contemporary novel is grabbing the reader’s attention in the first paragraph–preferably the first sentence. “Call me Ishmael” is frequently given as an excellent example. Probably the most common one.


  7. I was by no means referring to your writing as formulaic. I was ranting in general about the sad state of people who read books today and some who write them. I have a high opinion of your writing. However, I feel you could make a biger splash somehow. I was just trying to encourage you to put stronger feeling in your work, something novel and arresting, curious. to grab the attention and make pepole want to finish reading. As far as smooth writng is concerned you have the cat by the tail! I’m jealous. On the other hand, I don’t always write well, sometimes making gross errors in logic and style. But that’s OK…. I’m not a pro. Either way I’m just a fan interested in continuing reading your blog.


  8. Oh, I didn’t think you meant my writing was formulaic. I was just emphasizing the difference between those who write that way and me. You may not yet be a writing pro, but–as many things as you’ve succeeded at so far in life–it’s good that you still have that goal to shoot for. I hear what you’re saying about my writing. I appreciate both the compliments and the suggestions. And I wish I had more fans like you. *big smile*


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